New CD rich with intelligent, well-crafted pop songs covers a range of subject matter, from personal and political to simply observational
Three years after releasing its critically acclaimed Build a Rocket Boys! record, elbow has returned with yet another collection of intelligent, well-crafted pop songs with wickedly good lyrics and some very engaging melodies.
The Take Off and Landing of Everything features 10 new songs from the Manchester-based band, which 20 years down the road still features the same five guys who started out together, which seems to be something of an anomaly in pop music these days.
The band’s sixth studio album was recorded, in part, at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Wiltshire and, in part, at studios in Manchester and New York, where vocalist Guy Garvey now has a second home.
Keyboard player Craig Potter served as primary producer for the record which, like its predecessors, leans toward prog/rock but also draws inspiration from other more edgy, more alternative sources.
For The Take Off and Landing of Everything, the band took a slightly different approach than they did with its previous efforts in terms of the way the writing happened for the album.
In the past, most of the songs that ended up on their records were total band collaborations with every member of the band contributing during the rehearsal process to ideas one of them might have brought in.
For this record, individual band members brought in songs they had essentially created and completed on their own or created in collaboration with one or two other band members.
Potter, for example, penned Honey Sun, while Colour Fields was penned mostly by bass player Pete Turner using iPad apps.
Fly Boy Blue + Lunette is the joint creative outpouring of Turner, Potter and drummer Richard Jupp.
The songs on this record cover a range of subject matter, some personal, some political, some simply observational.
The Blanket of Night was written about illegal immigrants, afloat at sea, attempting to enter a better country.
My Sad Captains is a song lamenting the loss of friends.
The title track deals with lost loves and the way people deal with the complexities of human relationships.
Charge is about a man in a bar who has difficulty coming to terms with the fact he’s getting older and that the younger patrons in the bar don’t seem to notice he’s alive, let along sharing the same watering hole.
Garvey has said the writing of this record was influenced and informed by a number of things, not the least of which was his decision to purchase a home in New York (Brooklyn to be specific) where he has been exposed to a number of different influences.
“Add to that some of the big and little, positive and negative, life experiences that any group of men approaching 40 can expect, and the result is an initially dense but, we think, rewarding listen,” Garvey said.
The band was aided and abetted in the recording of the album by the much-heralded Hallé Orchestra, which Garvey has lovingly described as Manchester’s oldest band, as well as by an accomplished horn section and the Doves’ Jimi Goodwin, who added backing vocals.
At home in the U.K. where it is still the only band to score four consecutive 9/10 album reviews in NME (the New Musical Express), elbow has won the prestigious Mercury Award, several BRIT Awards and Ivor Novello awards, as well as penned the BBC theme song for the London Olympics.
The band has not yet achieved household name status in North America and The Take Off and Landing of Everything likely won’t dramatically change that, but hopefully it will help the band continue to grow its audience here.
If you like accessible, well-crafted pop songs with intelligent lyrics, great melodies, solid harmonies and interesting twists and turns, this could be an album for you.
For me this is one of those records best enjoyed while being swallowed by a giant armchair: wonderful atmospherics and high production values.
Choice cuts here include My Sad Captains, This Blue World, New York Morning, Colour Fields and the title track.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at email@example.com or 629-6000, ext. 6057.