The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

Written by: TL on 23/03/2014 22:37:53

Reading up on Elbow on wikipedia feels ridiculous. Having been a different band for seven years before settling on this moniker in 1997, the band debuted with "Asleep In The Back" in 2001 and have since then gone from peak to peak to peak: Each of their now six albums have charted in the Top 15 in England and the band has won a pile of prizes (among others the Mercury - twice), they've supported Coldplay and U2 and collaborated with a esteemed classical orchestras on multiple occasions and when they were revealed to play the closing ceremony at the 2012 Olympics, ticket sales rose 1000%.

What make these achievements doubly unbelievable is that most music fans I know aren't likely to know an Elbow song if their lives depended on it, nor even be aware of the band's magnitude elsewhere. The Manchester quintet is a band that seems to exist in a different musical climate than the one on planet Earth, with their indie-prog showing an almost arrogant disregard for the pragmatic considerations most realistic bands make these days, regarding song length and hook placement. In a world where labels fear to sign bands whose songs are more than three minutes, Elbow songs tend to clock in around seven, developing their narratives with the patience of a history teacher and with the dignity of a classical composer. Clearly, as far as they're concerned, rock music sorely needs them to bring such elaborateness into it and if the listening public isn't ready for it then... Well, it seems that it is, doesn't it? Faith in humanity restored?

Personally I only got acquainted with the group on 2011's "Build A Rocket Boys!", which did end up charting on my list of best albums that year. With that album in mind though, I initially felt right at home when "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything" first opened with "This Blue World", a tender song that feels like it looks down on earth in a romantic star light as singer Guy Garvey first greets the listener with his characteristic singing, at the same time delicate and completely relateable in tone, and always calmly melodic in movement. Things quickly switch into a more driving gear - relatively speaking of course - in the sense that the low tempo is at least underscored more with a subdued organ and something that sounds like violin strings being picked to mimic the sound of a ticking clock. Thusly "Charge" leads into "Fly Boy Blue / Lunette", which starts with acoustic guitar and vocal dubs, then brings out brazen electric and horns only to get mellower over the course of a long outro.

As is their custom then, Elbow keep things interesting already early by generously introducing interesting sounds above and beyond what a conventional rock band would use, and by actually implementing them in their compositions as opposed to just glueing them in like gimmicks. You still get the feeling that things are so carefully arranged that if you could map the tonal frequencies and instruments out in a colourful visual manner the result would be quite beautiful and kaleidoscopic.

While this is traditional for the band however, "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything" is actually a different listen compared to for instance "Build A Rocket Boys!". While the former album also had healthy servings of the same meticulous and carefully measured explorations "Take Off" has, it had equal measures of borderline triumphant moments, which were built and resolved exquisitely in songs like "Lippy Kids" and "Open Arms". "Take Off" in comparison, feels like it has a noticeable bit less of that same sense of resolution, as moods flow and ebb more gradually here. Especially the songs between tracks two and five have struck me as ones best suited for idle cloud-gazing, and if you don't concentrate there's a risk you could lose your way en route to more striking numbers like "Honey Sun" and "My Sad Captains". The shift from restrained humming into warm guitar playing at the middle of the former is like a gentle wake-up call that makes you dream of vacationing in warmer climates, and the latter's glaring, horn-backed declaration of love towards seeing the sun come up with your trusty drinking mates, casts the sort of sentimental shine on the situation that will likely encourage you to dive in again sooner rather than later.

Rich and unique as it is however, "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything" doesn't come across to me like Elbow at fullest potency. The album - which the band members wrote more separately than they normally have, and which was recorded in long time influence Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios - gets perhaps a little too hypnotic on the way across its first half, and it feels like all of its energy has been packed exclusively into its title track, which is almost cacophonic with the amount of horns that ring in its background throughout. It's a highly rewarding listen by sheer virtue of being an Elbow record, and as such being a completely different beast from almost every other record you'll hear in 2014; a reminder that music can be patient and measured and elegant. But it doesn't have you by the ears all the way through, and while there are songs to come back for here, I think in comparison "Build A Rocket Boys!" is a better choice for a full album listening session.

Download: This Blue World, Honey Sun, My Sad Captains
For The Fans Of: The National, The Unwinding Hours, Mew, Dry The River
Listen: facebook.com/Elbow

Release date 10.03.2014

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