Thursday, April 7, 2011

New album review: Elbow

Build a Rocket Boys!
Grade: A

Over the past decade, one of the most captivating groups to hail from Manchester has been Elbow, which often delves into prog rock-styled experimentation like Radiohead. The Brit rock band’s magnificent fifth release Build a Rocket Boys! (the digital version is available now; physical CD in stores Tuesday) is the long-awaited follow up to Mercury Music Prize winner/million-selling U.K. breakthrough The Seldom Seen Kid.

During the epic, haunting grandeur of “The Birds,” leader Guy Garvey – who possesses an emotional vocal style a la Peter Gabriel - sings “looking back is for the birds.” Yet he does take a glimpse through life’s rear view mirror (chiefly teenage years and a brief college stint). Past orchestration is downplayed; instead, the hometown Halle Youth Choir appears on several songs. They provide a gospel fervor on the handclap-led “With Love” and heavenly soaring harmonies to the enticing closer, “Dear Friends.”

Elsewhere, standouts include: the reverb-drenched vocals and keyboards in “The Night Will Always Win” (about not drinking and pondering life late at night), organ-led defense of restless teens “Lippy Kids,” macabre lack of faith tune “Neat Little Rows,” where Garvey wails “lay my bones in cobblestones” and adventurous “High Ideals,” where the musicians traverse Spanish and Middle Eastern musical terrain. All told, Boys! is another intriguing sonic journey by Elbow.

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