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Elbow
The Seldom Seen Kid
Polydor Records
www.elbow.co.uk


Elbow was a relative late-comer to the nineties Britpop/shoegaze scene… they came in following bands like the criminally under-appreciated Catherine Wheel, building their music on the same foundations of brilliant melodies interspersed with dynamic arrangements and engaging hooks. Their early releases were a bit more subdued and took a while to hit the listener square in the head with their subtle power. Their previous release Leaders Of The Free World was much more hard hitting out of the gate, but still contained Guy Garvey's amazingly vibrant voice and the band's penchant for brilliant melody. Not much has changed, but a lot is different with The Seldom Seen Kid.

The lead track, as per usual with an Elbow release, is subdued and a bit hazy, creating a certain sort of ambiance that sets up the album in a just-so-perfect kind of way. "Starlings" moves from quiet acoustic passages to blasts of horns, as if announcing the arrival of some spectacular royalty… not far off. What follows is some of the most amazing music to come from over shores in quite a few years, exploring the melodic territory began by bands such as The Boo Radleys and continued by addicts like Radiohead. The production on these songs is tremendous, each sound focused and tight, filling the perfect spaces to create a lush wall of sound that easily helps transport the listener to the world where Elbow is taking them. "The Bones Of You" is classic Elbow, spacey guitars and solid drumming that drops to a mere shadow when necessary, prompting me to claim that Elbow is the new Brian Wilson… without the insanity. "Grounds For Divorce" is pure, unadulterated brilliance - a drinking song of sorts imbued with a rare, nervous energy as Garvey claims, "I've been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce/polishing a compass that I hold in my sleep/ doubt comes in on sticks but then he kicks like a horse…" The music of the song perfectly conveys that same energy as the trashy drums work their way in and out of the mix, a fuzzed-out bass guitar strolling through the song, offsetting the banging piano and ethereal guitars, all working their way in and around the tremulous vocals of Garvey. Brilliance in action. "Weather To Fly" stands in stark contrast to the bitter power of "Grounds For Divorce," more subdued and beautiful, containing the same laid-back power that so much of Peter Gabriel's work holds. Garveys' voice is resplendent as he works his way through a dreamscape of hope and joy captured in a memory as delicate as the softly muted drumming and rich horns that carry the song on its way.

The Seldom Seen Kid is probably the most breathtaking and dynamic album to come out of Britain since Embrace's Out Of Nothing. So if you've been spending your time In Rainbows of living the Viva La Vida, I suggest you take a break from the easy to find and find some of the real good stuff… Guy Garvey and company have hit the proverbial nail on the head with this collection of tunes, showing that they rock harder, better, and louder than any band going in Britain today.

-Embo Blake

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Mike Doughty



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