thu 30/05/2024

Album: Elbow - Audio Vertigo | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Elbow - Audio Vertigo

Album: Elbow - Audio Vertigo

Another impressive release from the men not afraid to emote

On this, their 10th album, the melodious Mancunians started at the drum kit and built from there. This is no bad thing.

The overall effect is wide-ranging, surprising and altogether more uplifting than either the delicious despairing Giants of All Sizes (2019) or gentle, soulful Flying Dream 1 (2021).

We kick off with “Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years”, (for instance, “Of course I’ll live to 96 and fix the welfare state”) a self-deprecating piece of analysis that packs in the influences without ever being derivative. As Garvey puts it, “We referenced The Meters, Beastie Boys, Sly and Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Arctics, Queens of the Stone Age, Bolan, Tom Waits, Public Enemy and Alison Moyet and that’s just the opening song.” 

The entire album is dirtier and freer and, as ever, they seem to pull something extra out of the bag. Of course the charismatic giant that is Garvey gets the lion’s share of the publicity but, slightly in his shadow, the Potter brothers (Craig and Mark), Pete Turner and Alex Reeves (involved in writing for the first time since he joined in 2016) are exceptional musicians who are in the enviable position of being allowed to let themselves just do what they enjoy. Fortunately, that’s much appreciated among their legion of fans. But they are sometimes derided as “yearning”, over-sentimental and perhaps a little bit safe. These are baseless criticisms from those who stopped listening at “One Day Like This” (which, let’s face it, has been rather over-played). They are an endlessly inventive band.

The strange syncopation that begins the album’s first single, "Lovers Leap" – a meditation on the human fascination with doomed romance – is very un-Elbow. And you’re never quite sure where they’re going to take you next. If it weren’t for Garvey’s distinctive voice, would we really know who’s behind these inventive tunes?

Son of a sub, Garvey continues to have an unrivalled gift of expression and the laugh-out-loud gems come thick and fast (Alex Turner, please take note) yet are juxtaposed with lots of the customary deep thinking and unabashed emotion. “You’ll pull the wings off of anything” (The Picture). In “Poker Face” he nails the hideousness of the late teens (“Back then, everyone had a gob on them”). Then we’re straight into “The Knife Fight”, almost without a break. This is phenomenal stuff – whisking us to Istanbul, talking of a couple who “communicate disastrously” and squeezing in a reference to the Chandrasekhar Limit “for the amateur astrophysicists,” Garvey has helpfully explained. Equally exceptional is Good Blood Mexico City – a rabble-rousing powerhouse of a song, which is going to kick off when they play live.

Self-confessed Genesis fans, this influence comes across very clearly in “Her to the Earth”, where even the mix on Garvey’s voice (and female backing vocals – Ella Hohnen-Ford, Kianja and Eliza Oakes) would impress Mr Gabriel. It’s a real departure for them and, even for someone who shudders at the very notion of Genesis, a blinding success. And leaving us on a high, “From the River”, is utterly mesmerising – a real Elbow classic. Another triumph that deepens with every listen.

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