Monday, 7 March 2011

Album Review: Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!

Album: Build A Rocket Boys!
Artist: Elbow
Singles: Neat Little Rows

I have never been the biggest fan of Elbow; the only song that I really got into from their first three albums was Forget Myself, but then came The Seldom Seen Kid, which I loved, and had on repeat regularly. When I heard this album was set to be closer to their original album than the new stuff, I was a little unsure whether I would like it or not. The band should be commended for not letting the acclaim go to their heads. But is this album any good? Let's see...

The Birds
An epic opener, lasting eight minutes, and delving in and out of different sounds. It doesn't get dull or particularly repetitive, which is always the worry for songs of this length. Starting off with a nice groove and settling in quite quickly, before the brilliant vocals of Guy Garvey shine out: "The birds, are the keepers of our secrets". After three and a half minutes, a psychedelic-sounding synth comes in to throw the song sideways with a load of random beeps - made to sound awesome. As we hear the words "looking back is for the birds" for the third or fourth time, the song shows another new beautiful side with strings joining in. Then the vocals come back in with immense power - Garvey showing off his incredible voice - and then before you know it, the song slows down and eight minutes have already passed. An outstanding opener, probably the best song on the album, in my opinion.

Lippy Kids
This song was released in more of a demo in video form in late December last year, and I liked it instantly. It's also a long one at six minutes, and it's very minimal - piano and vocals make up the majority of the song. A choir joins the chorus, giving it a great new layer that wasn't there in the original video the band posted online. It can get a bit repetitive and does take a while to reach the finishing point, but it's still a very good song.

With Love
The melody descends and the drums come in - getting straight into the song. The choir returns to chant "with love" throughout the chorus, which gets a nice mixture of vocals later on, all working around each other and sounding great. Again it's quite a minimal, repetitive song, but it still works well for the most part. It ends abruptly after the last chorus, but leads onto:

Neat Little Rows
The first single and the heaviest song on offer on this album, a guitar making itself known a little more than on the previous two tracks. Now that I've heard the rest of the album, it's easier to understand why this was the first single - almost nothing on here's very radio-friendly, not that that's a bad thing. It's different than the radio edit, featuring about two minutes worth of a middle eight which takes an underlying tune from the chorus to make the song very different indeed, with some odd sounds in the background, and some deep vocals over the top. It then comes back for one final rendition of the chorus and ends.

Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl
Once again, returning to the minimal sounds heard on Lippy Kids or With Love, made up of an acoustic guitar and Garvey's vocals. There is a quiet drumbeat in the background, but the song would work without it. It also features some unusual piano/synth noises occasionally that take a bit of getting used to, but it's a good song nonetheless.

The Night Will Always Win
A single solitary note is played around thirty times before the song gets going, and it does get a little frustrating waiting for something to happen, but the song makes up for it. Once again, the song is not overblown or awashed with orchestral sounds to make it sound powerful. Instead, the strength of Garvey's voice makes this a powerful song in a very different way. "The night will always win, the night has darkness on its side" goes the chorus, and you feel every syllable as it's sung.

High Ideals
Probably at the weaker end of the songs on the album. It has a catchy beat to start it off, and at the start when more instruments come to join it, it sounds promising - quite epic. But it goes in the other direction and returns to a slightly quieter sound as heard on quite a lot of the songs on the album. For me, nothing very interesting happens on this song, but it's definitely not unlistenable.

The River
A beautiful song, essentially consisting solely of piano and vocals. It doesn't go in any interesting new direction, but the band stick to what they know, and although the song takes less than three minutes to reach its end, it still leaves its mark.

Open Arms
This is another favourite of mine, and should be the next single. Its chorus has 'euphoric' written all over it - "we've got open arms for broken hearts", and Garvey's singing reaches its peak on this song - there's a moment about two minutes in when he sings "and we've loved enough to light the streets" and the sheer power and emotion in his voice is absolutely stunning. As the song closes with the lyric "everyone's here" being repeated over the chorus, it just makes you want to smile. A brilliant song.

The Birds (reprise)
Pretty much what it says it is. A minute and of a half of lyrics from The Birds being spoken over the quiet, emotional backing of a choir. It seems a little pointless, but it allows the listener a little break between two of the best songs on the album, the first being Open Arms, and the second being...

Dear Friends
Again, the band goes for the happiness factor. "Dear friends, you are angels and drunks, you are magi" goes the first line. The song is a beautiful one, and its sheer optimism is the perfect way to close the album. All the music comes together to throw emotion straight in your face. And as it takes its bow, it's hard to believe that you've got through all 50 minutes of the album. To be fair, the majority of it was taken up by The Birds and Lippy Kids alone, but still...

Well, I can say with confidence that I'm happy to be proven wrong. This may not be in line with my wish for more "Seldom Seen Kid" style songs, but it's still a fantastic album. It sticks to being quiet and minimal, and it pays off very well in most cases. Guy Garvey's vocals and the sheer beauty of the majority of the songs are the best parts of this album. I still think I enjoyed their previous album more, but this still will be on repeat for a while.


Previous albums: Asleep In The Back (5/10), Cast Of Thousands (4/10), Leaders Of The Free World (5/10), The Seldom Seen Kid (9/10)

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