In a incredible blaze of heartwarming melancholy, Elbow’s fifth album “Build A Rocket Boys!” drives home those nostalgic feelings of youth. Their new album offers the musical complexities of one of Britain’s top progressive/rock bands. Elbow takes the listener on a unique experience as they reflect on the wonders and disillusion that comes with growing up. Though as with every Elbow album, it begs to be taken slow so one can absorb it all.
With a beautifully crafted opener “The Birds” conveys the musical diversity of Elbow. The incredibly catchy guitar rift guides the progression of the song letting each member highlight their musical talents. The keyboards manage to stand above as they change the tone halfway through into a psychedelic trip. This is the song to get lost in with it’s bluesy tempo at the start and it’s awe inspiring Genesis-like tone near the end.
Although “The Birds” offers a little something for everyone, it’s sister track simply titled “The Birds (Reprise)” gives us a shorter and less polished version. With such a short runtime I found myself wondering what the point of this track even was. It’s too short to get into yet long enough to find yourself simply skipping to the next track.
With it’s progressive/rock crescendos and creative lyrics, “Lippy Kids” is the epitome of “Build A Rocket Boys!” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own home town and the simplicity of youth. “Do they know those days are golden?” are methodically sung by lead singer Guy Garvey as his lyrics deliver the essence of the album. With this motif of untapped potential used throughout, “Lippy Kids” sends the message loud and clear.
“With Love” sends the listener soaring as the choir vocals manage to “fill your dome with love”. The piano yields the bands softer side as Garvey’s lyrical prowess tells a tale about missing your loved ones. They keep this softness and concept of home with the track “Open Arms”. Garvey expresses the amazing feeling of having a home to come back to no matter what. The recurring element of choir back up vocals allowed them to strike their emotional chord by adding a encompassing feeling to their music.
Sadly, even with a top notch collection of songs there were a couple of questionable tracks. “Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl” has the acoustic and unplugged feel that should have been great. But the atrocious sounding keyboards used to accompany the guitar quickly ruins any promise the song may have had. Musically their songs are always better when played with real piano, not keyboard tones that sounds like a crappy MATEL toy made them. The following track “The Night Will Always Win” wasn’t any better. Garvey’s voice ends up grating on your nerves when the song skates close to the razors edge of pretentiousness.
Even with some bizarre additions to the album, “Neat Little Rows” was the song I constantly found on repeat and made up for them tenfold. It’s enticing drum snares and dirty blues guitar proves that they can be aggressive and still manage to be soothing. When Elbow does decide to show off their blues capabilities the songs always manage to stand above the rest. Arguably the track “Grounds For Divorce” from their previous albums aggressive blues style is what launched Elbow’s popularity. That should be a testament in itself that this is the band we all want to hear.
With an album based on the progression of time Elbow shows that it takes a long time to build that rocket. They may have peaked late in their musical careers but their ever increasing fan base shows they are doing something right. They have maintained their classical yet edgy blues sound at the heart of all of their albums. Although the variety of music outside of this spectrum shows they are still evolving as a band. When they get caught up in their quest for evolution they sometimes drop the ball. Yet when they do embrace their old school roots they always produce great music. In the midst of it all at least Elbow are always true to who they are as artists.