Album Review: Elbow, Little Fictions

With the world in a state of utter flux at the moment, we could do with something to lift the spirits. Well here it is. Those most reliable purveyors of anthemic tunes, Elbow, supply a virtual bear hug to make the worries pale into insignificance for the 48 minute duration of this album. When you’re up to your seventh offering, you’d think there wasn’t much else to say, but with Guy Garvey recently married and a change of drummer now that Richard Jupp has departed, there’s enough change mixed with reliable excellence to give a superior product.

Opener, Magnificent, is as fine a track as they’ve composed since game changer, One Day Like This, and has a similar rousing feel. Through the eye of a child’s innocence is a degree of positivity that is very welcome, and their fabulous use of strings (Halle Orchestra) is in evidence again. But there are a number of other distinctive tracks that are of real interest. Trust The Sun starts with a bit of a shimmy shake and a sinister undertone when piano chords cut in, seemingly at cross purposes.

“I just don’t trust the sun to rise, when I can’t see your eyes, I just don’t trust the world to spin, when I can’t pull you in.”

The lyrics on this album are truly stunning, delivered with that wonderfully understated and unfussy tone of Garvey’s voice. You’d believe anything the man says, and I must resist the urge to just quote and copy the lyrics wholesale, but they do speak for themselves. Has anyone more eloquently conveyed the meaning of this grown up love thing? There’s the absolutely gorgeous Head For Supplies,

“Across the city there’s a golden chill, a rare holding still, as if somebody’s gonna sing…Way down inside me was a pilot light, that good friends tended and fed with tiny kindnesses…”  so beautiful you could weep.

Next up is Firebrand and Angel, another song of impact, led by a strong piano riff, while Guy berates the North Star for looking down on his pain for three long years, as he makes a welcome venture into his upper register. K2 has a political bent to it, a bit of a post Brexit rant.

“I’m from a land with an island status, makes us think that everyone hates us, well maybe darling they do, but they haven’t met you .”

Then title track Little Fictions is an 8 minute epic about the kitchen sink dramas of lover’s arguments. Garvey is soon to be a father and the song is about the friction between nervous parents-to-be because something miraculous is about to happen.

“A muffled battlecry across the kitchen table, a baffling  contretemp that shakes the day unstable, confessions from the cab a habit that I got from Dad, the flurry of departure in a cyclone of cologne…” (possibly one of my favourite lyrics ever).

It’s broken up beautifully with a change of pace for the chorus. Then it goes all massive, gets a bit squeaky and builds like the climax of a film. It’s a song that should go with a screenplay, and if it doesn’t, frankly someone should write one to do it justice.

There’s a poetry to Little Fictions that soothes a few wounds. After a bit too much bluster and antagonistic nonsense from the leaders who hold power, this kind of sensitive solace is a reminder that with a bit of love and kindness, just maybe, everything will be OK.

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