Build A Rocket Boys!

Written by: TL on 26/03/2011 15:27:40

In a continuing effort to make Rockfreaks.net about all kinds of rock, and not just the sort you can read about in either Kerrang or Metal Hammer, you may have noticed that I have started posting reviews of bands you've heard of but haven't heard. That's what's going on here as well, as I have decided to get acquainted with Manchester five-piece Elbow, letting myself be introduced by "Build A Rocket Boys!", the band's fifth LP since their formation back in 1991.

Researching the band, it quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary task, with the band earning sky-high piles of hype for both this and their last album "The Seldom Seen Kid", and as I listen to "Build A Rocket Boys!", it doesn't take long for me to start doubting if I'm up to reviewing it, simply because Elbow's style of music is one that make most other bands seem like one large and generic group of teenagers shouting ignorantly and unoriginally into their microphones.

What makes me say that, is that Elbow's sound is one of classy and mature progression, the kind of which requires all the sorts of patience that kids of the ADHD generation (me included) do not regularly use. The songs average around five minutes in length, and calmly compile layers of instrumentation - both from the ordinary band setup and a variety of hired classical musicians - into meticulously composed progressions. Of course, ambitious prog-rock bands are nothing new, but what's unusual is that while most of those are quite heavy, Elbow use elements that are decisively indie, alternative or/and classical in nature. Indeed, subtle and precise use of dynamics seem to be the name of their game, both in terms of the instrumentation and the expert vocal work of lead-singer Guy Garvey, who confidently and passionately wields a wide vocal range, while conjuring up vivid lyrical imagery.

Now at first, even if it is hard to criticize Elbow's highly characteristic style, if you're used to listening to piles of energetic rock bands, who rip the living daylights out of their instruments with great energy and enthusiam, your first few trips through "Build A Rocket Boys!" will likely have you feeling like it doesn't have much going on. If you have any taste for progression though, memorable fixpoints will soon reveal themselves in songs such as "Lippy Kids", "Open Arms", "With Love" and "Dear Friends", and as soon as you have those to cling to, each repeat listen will reveal the wealth of intricate detail surrounding them.

That being said, "Build A Rocket Boys!" is still unquestionably a grower, rather than a 'love at first listen' type of record, and whether one kind is better than the other, I suppose depends on how you like your records. Whether or not it is a good record I don't think lends itself to doubt, as even a newcomer like me can hear that Elbow have more class, confidence and originality than the vast majority of bands I know. I'm only somewhat shameful for not being able to speak of them with more familiarity or better references, and while I'm leaving them with a rock solid grade, I still sense it possible that I'll be back with more praise come the end of the year.


Download: Lippy Kids, Open Arms, With Love,
For The Fans Of: The National, The Decemberists (@ "The Hazards Of Love"), Death Cab For Cutie (@ "Plans" and "Narrow Stairs")
Listen: myspace.com/elbowmusic

Release Date 07.03.2011
Fiction/Polydor Records

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