Life wasn’tlways easy for Elbow. Despite relentless critical acclaim as one of the most consistent bands of their generation, they suffered nearly 20 years of being unappreciated, unknown but never uninspired.
Then they finally hit pay dirt by winning the Mercury Music Prize for their earth-shiftingly successful 2009 effort The Seldom Seen Kid.
Performing The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver at the ceremony, Guy Garvey pined the words: “Say I’m on top of my game.”
Indeed they were, but can they stay there?
“What we gunna’ do with you?” croons Garvey to himself on opener The Birds, imagining life as an old man looking back on his years, to set the fondly nostalgic tone for the rest of the album. Driven along by a slow chugging rhythm section and wandering through a haze of tinkering synth, it gradually builds to an almighty and life-affirming crescendo, quickly reminding listeners of why they first fell in love with Elbow.
Lippy Kids is an atmospheric and heart-wrenching reflection on adolescence. With Garvey’s vivid poetry you feel every word as he mourns “do they know these days are golden?”
The Tom Waits-esque sinister tone of lead single Neat Little Rows grows more majestic with each listen, and as the handclaps and infectious meandering vocals of With Love bury themselves deep in your psyche, it becomes clear that this has ‘classic’ written all over it.
No doubt, any other band would have felt the pressure to produce 11 stadium-sized X-Factor montage moments in the same ilk as One Day Like This. But not Elbow.
Littered with eclectic musical flourishes and drenched in Garvey’s unmistakable romantic translation of the day-to-day, Build A Rocket Boys is an album that’s as ambitious and star-gazing as its title suggests.
Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl is a tender, tear-jerking tribute to lost love, whilst High Ideals has a slow and infectious groove punctuated by a Hispanic horn section before the angelic Dear Friends draws the album to a heavenly and embracing close.
Always the bridesmaid? Never again, as this is the perfect marriage of real human personality and universal anthemics. Build A Rocket Boys, the sky is the limit.
By Andrew Trendell