Thursday, 13 March 2014

Elbow - The Take off and Landing of Everything


Listening to Elbow is like admiring the fella who wears white to a funeral - a bowl of sadness mixed with a spoon of hope. Tread lightly, because there seems to be a passing; it's just the way Elbow's music is intended to be. They pull the heartstrings and tear what heart and soul our puny human bodies contain. The listener becomes submissive to the lyrical fluctuation and hypnotic instrumentation of a once fading rock band from Greater Manchester. The Take off and Landing of Everything - just like all Elbow releases - is an achingly beautiful and spiritual album, one for the history books if you're a long term Elbow fan. It's a refreshing piece of passion that takes the listener through the turbulent love life of Guy Garvey, and his fathomable questions on society and life.

Never have 10 tracks been so openly accessible on an Elbow album. Sure, The Seldom Seen Kid was at its peak an accessible album with two standout singles - but it doesn’t hold the alternative glazing and atmospherical peaks that The Take off and Landing of Everything dominates with. Whether it be the seven minute-short album opener "This Blue World", with its timeless structure, or the closer "The Blanket of the Night", which bridges immigration with the hopes and fears of those affected by political opposition - Elbow's sixth studio album seems to hold far greater content than ever before. Take "Charge", a relatively simple track instrumentally, lifted with gorgeous strings and Garvey's ever improving weary vocal - taken to a different context with Marston's brewed Elbow beer called Charge. There's a level of intensity here, as if Elbow have finally made it post-Mercury Prize, and post-London 2012. "Charge", with all its little elements of beauty, comes across as one of Elbow's best - brought in to the light of love with Garvey's lyrics: "I am the boy who loved her so in every song," in reference to Garvey's past lyrics // the fact so many love songs can relate to all couples, and when you hear one, you can only put yourself in the voice of the singer and the writer.

As with all Elbow albums, theirs a flick of genius, something no other artist can match. On The Take off and Landing of Everything, it's "New York Morning". This is where I, as a listener, relate to Elbow not only as a reviewer, or a fan, but as an individual who can relate to Garvey's themes. Just like LCD Soundsytem's "New York I Love You", Elbow has crafted a delightful ode to the city that never sleeps, and Garvey's so right in his lyrics: "Oh my god, New York can talk, somewhere in all that talk is all the answers." Imagine the most famous photos and video shots of New York City, and put it to the words and music of Elbow. The piano notes make "New York Morning" one of Elbow's most uplifting songs to date, it really pounds the heart, especially one which has seen the beauty and heard the nattering of America's eastern port. It's these geographical songs which make artists connect deeper than ever with listeners, Elbow here with "New York Morning" - check out Yoko Ono's 'thanks' from Garvey's name check, and it's a heartfelt thanks, as if Ono is saying thanks for the memory. Vampire Weekend did it with "Step", LCD Soundsystem as previously stated, and even Jay-Z - powerful songs that live long in the memory: "Me I see a city and I hear a million voices. Planning, drilling, welding, carrying their fingers to the nub. Reaching down into the ground, stretching up into the sky, why? Because they can, they did and do, so you and I could live together." 

It continues. "Fly Boy Blue / Lunette" is Elbow's experimental high, drenched in art rock / progressive rock. The first part is very slick, sophisticated in vocal delivery, and brash instrumentally, like early King Crimson in structure and sound. Then there's "Lunette", a cherry of an extended piece. Garvey's vocals flow so elegantly over acoustic guitars and percussion bopping to the feeling of loss, forgotten time, and regret: "I'm reaching the age when decisions are made, on life and liver and I'm sure last ditch that'll I'll ask for more time, but mother forgive me - I still want a bottle of good Irish whiskey and a bundle of smokes in my grave." This theme is again represented on "Real Life (Angel)", where love strikes a chord: "You always found peace in the grip of the beat, darling. Time alone with the pounding of your heart, as it starts to heal you'll find a better mirror in another," evidence of Elbow's all-round improved lyrical skill, connecting in damning manor of sadness rather than beating around the bush.

Overall, The Take off and Landing of Everything is absolutely outstanding - without a doubt Elbow's best album. "My Sad Captains" is enough to send the fence listener over the edge, pure passion and delicacy. The electric guitars blend the heavy reverberation with the layered hook: "Oh my soul." These lyrics, just like most on this album, stand out as refined poetry: "What a perfect waste of time." It's a closer in its own right, and "My Sad Captains" could easily be the ending credit song to almost every emotionally attached film. Six minutes of bliss to caress the listener in to a state of empathy. The same applies to other back-album tracks, "Honey Sun" for its slow slowcore styled structure - like a British Low, and "Colour Fields" for the same reason.

The self-titled track is one of the most uplifting tracks, not just on this album, but in 2014 - that’s coming from a typically apathetic perspective. Elbow use their structure building experience to construct a build-up track of alternative rock from 90s past. Think Primal Scream with sadness, or The Stone Roses with vengeance - like the album as a compact piece, "The Take off and Landing of Everything" results in ferocious power plays and weary vocals. Forget all the slowcore simplicity of "Colour Fields", its follow-up takes listeners back to the golden age when Elbow pounded what instruments they decide to pound. Lyrically, this track dominates the themes of the album. It's a coming together of lives of different backgrounds and in different eras. Be it youth with listeners, or mid-life for the appropriate spokesperson Guy Garvey - this track is the accumulation of life as a cycle, and no matter what, you're a part of it. The Take off and Landing of Everything - just the title comes across as a powerful message. They've truly created a wonderful album, surpassing Build a Rocket Boys! lyrically, and The Seldom Seen Kid instrumentally. The feel, the vibes, the emotional connections here, it just can't be compared to anything other than the Elbow way - no other artist in British history can create an hour of material in such a beautiful and imaginative fashion than this Bury five-piece, an immaculate display of talent - still surprising, still dazzling.
~Eddie Gibson

8.7

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