REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Elbow prepare for take off with new album

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Manchester's favourite sons reach for the skies with their stunning new album "The Take Off and Landing of Everything".


For the sadly ill-informed portion of the population, this is seemingly Elbow’s third studio album. From the breakthrough success of 2008’s inescapable ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ to its follow-up, the rawer ‘Build A Rocket, Boys!’ in 2011, Elbow have not only hit their stride commercially, but lyrically and musically they’re comfortable with what they want to achieve, and they’ve honed it to a fine art.

So for this, their brand new (actual sixth) offering ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’, it’s refreshing to see the band shake things up a little, with each member taking control of batches of songs – ‘Honey Sun’ was written and recorded at home by guitarist Mark Potter, brother Craig penned the music for ‘Real Life (Angel)’, bassist Pete Turner concocted ‘Colour Fields’ using iPad apps, while drummer Jupp worked on initial offering ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ alongside Pete and Mark. This segmented approach yields diverse results, evoking the more experimental sounds of their first three albums.

Because yes, before ‘One Day Like This’ graced our airwaves, Elbow had already released a trilogy of ground-breaking masterpieces between 2001 and 2005, arguably still the most forward-thinking output the band have yet managed.

It now appears that the relative safety of albums four and five has reinvigorated Elbow to try and recapture some of that past splendour and spontaneity.

The result is a delicate, beautiful collection, with nods aplenty to their previous work, embellished with subtle new elements – drum machines, modality and linearity are all explored.

The orchestral sheen of recent times is still there, but feels less relied upon. Textures hark back to the more band-oriented arrangements of 2005’s ‘Leaders of the Free World’, with a lot of the sparseness in fact recalling 2012’s B-sides collection ‘Dead in the Boot’.

Structurally, the balance of this album feels a bit lop-sided; there is perhaps too much emphasis on ethereal lullabies, when perhaps a classic rock belter such as ‘Fallen Angel’ or ‘Neat Little Rows’ would help to energise the latter half of the duration. After ‘Charge’ we have to wait until the title track for more overwhelming grit to return. It’s something the band do so well, it’s a shame they don’t utilise distortion as much as they used to.

Guy Garvey’s lyrics are once again flawless, and deserving of world-class acclaim. “Everybody owns the great ideas” he sings in ‘New York Morning’, a humble delivery lending a gravitas to the line that imbues it with a timeless quality, a sentiment that feels obvious, yet fresh. Its simplicity is remarkable, and genius.

Pete’s bass tones remain enigmatic, Craig’s touches of piano and production elegant and masterful, Mark’s guitar work consistently expressive, and Jupp’s drumming continues to single him out as one of the most important percussionists the country has produced in recent years.

There are guest appearances, too; Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra, brass players Pete McPhail, Tim Barber, Bob Marsh and Kat Curlett, plus Doves’ Jimi Goodwin are all featured.

At this point in time, Elbow can do whatever they want, but in the previous 13 years of mainstream output, the quality has never wavered. This album is yet one more bench-mark of brilliance in their ever expanding canon.

‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’ is released on CD, deluxe CD, vinyl and as a digital download via Polydor on March 10th.