(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Asleep in the Back (2001) , 6.5/10
Cast of Thousands (2004) , 6.5/10
Leaders of the Free World (2005) , 5.5/10
The Seldom Seen Kid (2008), 5.5/10

Manchester quintet Elbow belong to the generation of bands born at the turn of the millennium that aims at renovating the stale format of Brit-pop. Compared with Doves and Coldplay, Elbow displays a knack for melodic and romantic prog-rock in the vein of early Genesis. The no-nonsense approach by the five diligent musicians (vocalist Guy Garvey, drummer Richard Jupp, organist Craig Potter, guitarist Mark Potter, bassist Pete Turner) was demonstrated on the EPs Newborn (Uglyman, 2001) and Any Day Now (Uglyman, 2001), which already manifested the fundamental aesthetic tendencies of the band.

Asleep in the Back (EMI, 2001) recycled Newborn and Any Day Now (best tracks on the album) and added a handful of well-crafted doleful melodies, from the piano elegy Powder Blue to the intense Bitten by the Tail Fly.

Cast of Thousands (EMI, 2004) is even more emotional than the first album. Ribcage, Fallen Angel, Switching Off and especially Grace under Pressure try different combinations of counterpoint and melody to reach for the heart. If they mostly succeed, credit must be given to the humble attitude of the musicians, who never invoke the ghosts of past virtuosi while avoiding the cliches of contemporary pop.

Leaders of the Free World (V2, 2005) seems to pack all its best shots in the first half. The gentle Station Approach and the majestic Picky Bugger follow the blueprint of previous charmers, whereas the (unusually) sprightly Forget Myself offers a more positive outlook. The six-minute Leaders of the Free World cements their reputation as purveyors of "complex" songwriting.

The Seldom Seen Kid (Fiction, 2008) contains several additions to the canon, and they are all different: the virulent Grounds for Divorce (a blues with prominent rhythm and call-and-response chanting, although interrupted by a poppy chorus and hard-rocking guitar), the stately The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver (a quasi-religious hymn over a sinister polyrhythm of guitar, piano and drums), the magniloquent One Day Like This (strings and even a choir, and finally some loud drums). Throughout the album there is a manic emphasis on sound for the sake of sound, that largely provides the very meaning of atmospheric songs such as Starlings (a delicate melody whispered by the singer in a simple soundscape of soft drumming and sparse electronic tones) and Weather To Fly. Unfortunately, too many songs are just faceless and listless. The Bones of You (that samples Gershwin's Summertime) sounds like U2 with a plainer voice and a less ringing guitar. Mirrorball is a calm, whispered litany in an atmospheric soundscape over a steady beat. The touching melody of Some Riot evolves out of the singer's monotonous croon. Sometimes the eccentric arrangements evoke a sober, streamlined Tom Waits, like in The Fix. The truth is that Elbow are largely a singer's band.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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