Album Review: Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys! (Fiction/Polydor)

Touching, inventive and teeming with goodwill

Specificity in art is a sign of bravery. Anyone who obfuscates what they mean (either for lack of something to say or for fear of being taken to task) is not only a coward but probably not worthy of the tag ‘artist’ in the first place. This is one of many small but important details that inform [a]Elbow[/a]’s fifth album and place them in a different league to other purveyors of ‘emotional atmospheric rock’.

For example, [a]Coldplay[/a]’s ‘Viva La Vida’ sounds impressive, but their songs might as well be about Chris Martin’s guilt over naming his children after fruit for all the lyrical clues we are given. [a]Elbow[/a]’s first album since winning the Mercury Prize for ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ in 2008 is at the other end of the scale, rooted in the sublimely specific and the gloriously mundane.

Songwriter Guy Garvey cements his position as the laureate of the everyday. If you’ve ever been chucked, realised that you miss your parents, or thought that you don’t see enough of your mates, then he has written a song that hits the heart of the matter with frightening resonance. He indulges his skill to deal with these universal themes with sheer generosity of spirit and freshness of perspective to a level that would see most become unacceptably whimsical or mawkish.

It is true that on ‘Lippy Kids’, which sees him lamenting the shortness of childhood in a manner that threatens to become Hovis ad-esque, he sails close to the wind. But the counterpoint to this is the sublime ‘Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl’, which is a beautifully vivid recollection of moving in with someone for the first time.

The band remain a gently progressive and subtly innovative force thanks mainly to keyboard player Craig Potter’s production of the album, from the immersive bass on ‘Open Arms’ to techno-mimicking ‘The Birds’. Specifically speaking, [a]Elbow[/a] have retained their crowns as everyman kings.

John Doran


Order a copy of Elbow’s ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ from Amazon

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