Album Review: Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything.


I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure, when it comes to this album by Elbow. There are moments of supreme top drawer excellence, and moments when I feel a tad bemused by it. At 57 minutes long, with 7 tracks over 5 minutes, it shapes up to be an epic listen and a grower. The title reflects the ups and downs of the life journey of the band members and was written during the break up of Guy Garvey’s relationship with partner Emma Jane Unsworth. There’s plenty of heartbreak etched into this.
Starting with some positivity, track two, Charge, is worth the cost of purchase on it’s own. A mighty ear worm with a monumental wriggle, it’s a track with attitude, being about some drinking sot propping up a bar whilst glaring at the youngsters around him and informing them “I’ve broken jaws protecting laws for you.” These whippersnappers should be damn grateful! I love the keyboard, which follows the the vocal line, and the strings that kick in in the latter part of the song are sublime. A damn good track.
New York Morning does exactly what it says on the tin. You get a real a sense of dawn breaking in a place full of potential and opportunity, where it all can happen and does happen. As Guy says “Oh my giddy aunt, New York can talk”. The musical elements are introduced and build up the layers of sound, as you would imagine the day’s activity humming along in the big city. Then it fades with the lyric “The way the day begins, decides the shade of everything, but the way it ends depends on if you’re home, for every soul a pillow and a window please.”
The title track is an uplifting jangle of sound, and I’m very fond of the trumpet in Sad Captains and the double bass in The Blanket of Night, all songs that have grown, got under the skin and feel very satisfying to listen to.
On the other hand, there are several tracks I find very hard to like. The trouble is, it’s a short step from deep and meaningful to being dreary (and it really does pain me to type that word!). The album cover, for some reason, reminds me of the weeping angels from Doctor Who, and the opening track, This Blue World, just doesn’t inspire me to get involved in the album at all. It does however contain the beautiful lyric “While three chambers of my heart beat strong and true with love for another, the fourth, the fourth is yours forever.” Fly Boy Blue is a perfectly jolly song, where Guy tells us he’s “having a shindig”. Fair play to him for that, but then it changes completely to Lunette and I just don’t get why they aren’t two separate songs. You see how confused I feel? It sums up the lack of cohesion I sense in the album, possibly because the songs were written separately by the band members, rather than as a collective. At points I’m desperate for someone to pick up a strat and bust a big guitar riff, and in truth I could happily shave 4 tracks and 20 minutes off the album and I’m pretty sure it would be a monster.
At the time of writing, the album has gone straight in at Number One, and I certainly don’t begrudge them that – it’s fully deserved for services to music over the years. After all, Guy Garvey is the poet laureate of the music world. And it may be that in a couple of months I’ll be completely won over and regret my blasphemous words of doubt.

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