October 11, 2019 elbow – Giants of All Sizes (Album Review)
The band that many observers claim to have immensely inspired Coldplay and whose music exudes the same limestone-rock, blue-romantic vibes along with Travis (“Why Does It Always Rain on Me?”) and Doves (“Catch the Sun”), elbow may be less stellar but is as prolific and its music as compelling and affecting.
Formed in 1997, in Bury, Manchester, England, elbow is Guy Garvey (lead vocals, guitar), Craig Potter (keyboard, piano, backing vocals), Mark Potter (guitar, backing vocals), and Pete Turner (bass, backing vocals). In its more than two decades of activity, the quartet has released eight albums—from 2001’s Asleep in the Back to the recently unleashed Giants of All Sizes.
Released on Friday, October 11th, 2019, via Polydor Records/Verve Label Group, elbow’s eighth offering was recorded at Hamburg’s Clouds Hill Studio, The Dairy in Brixton, 604 Studios in Vancouver and Blueprint Studios in Salford, with additional recording taking place at various band member’s home studios in Manchester. Consisting of nine songs, the new album bursts bright and brims with the opening Trip-Hop/Shoegaze energy of “Dexter & Sinister.”
Less fuzzy but still mind-numbing plays next in the form of “Seven Veils”—flowing, hypnotic, enveloping. “Empires” is another glowing burner, albeit slow and a bit ritualistic and percussive, exuding faint echoes of the Gothic/Dreampop sensibilities of Dead Can Dance (“Yulunga [Spirit Dance]”) and Cocteau Twins (“Carolyn’s Fingers”).
A change of style and rhythm, “The Delayed 3:15” returns the listener to the early, acoustic-oriented and more organic sound of elbow—highlighted by an Eastern-inspired orchestration. Following in the same rustic tradition, “White Noise, White Heat” emits elbow’s edginess and Rock Alternative tendencies; its Flamenco-flavored guitar strums may strike a bell in the senses of anyone familiar with The Cure (“The Blood”). The looping rhythm and ambiance of “Doldrums” then puts the listener in a hazy shade of sonic adventure.
A pair of Worldbeat-inspired tracks then come next—the romantic heartbeat of “My Trouble,” which pierces through the listener’s lovelorn sentiments; and the Arabic-sounding, Dance Pop tune “On Deronda Road,” easily captivating passersby. Finally, elbow wraps up its pièce de résistance in the same brightness and boldness with the modern balladry of “Weightless.”
With its latest effort, elbow has accomplished something seemingly greater than the sum of its past, by pushing the boundaries of its music. Giants of All Sizes is a progressive transition from the minimalist beginnings of the enduring band. Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.