build a rocket boys!
Apr 12, 2011 Web Exclusive
How does one follow up a Mercury Prize-winning album? By dropping the capitals from your album title, the up-tempo rockers from your tracklist, and the angst from your life. Frontman Guy Garvey’s melodic rasp still embodies all the emotional wounds of their previous four studio albums, but such lines as “We’ve got open arms for broken hearts” (“Open Arms”) hold more promise of renewal than mope. Approaching middle age both individually and corporally, build a rocket boys! is Elbow at its finest—having found a place where the tricky business of wringing beauty from joy (rather than sorrow) doesn’t include bouts of self-righteousness or dullness.
The band clings to the previously crafted pattern of rock bursting into melodic choruses that leave many placing them into the Coldplay bucket. (Let’s clarify this now: emotional and heartfelt does not necessarily equal “Dad Rock.”) Sure it’s a loose concept album about growing older, but don’t expect any platitudes, just subtle variations on a theme of recognizing sorrow exists—and then moving past it (how mature of them.)
Eight-minute opener “The Birds” unfolds like a flower, slowly building tension with a terse, slow-moving chorus that grows to a soaring chorus, Garvey’s phenomenal vocals front and center. While it’s true this is a bit of an expected choice, as Elbow have never met a chorus they couldn’t make soar, the band also shows incredible restraint, dialing back the formula for breathtakingly intimate acoustic track, “Jesus is a Rochdale Girl.” The track highlights Garvey’s talent for specific yet universal storytelling, as he lists the detritus of a failed relationship, “a single yellow duvet, a single switch to flick, a thousand boxes yet to take.” Build a rocket boys! closes with a similarly understated coda “Dear Friends,” a crushingly sweet ode to enduring friendships where Garvey address his loved ones singing, “You are angels and drunks/You are the stars I navigate home by.” The emotional pallet may be lightened, but once again Elbow still manages to break hearts, even as their own remain intact. (www.elbow.co.uk)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10