Build a Rocket Boys!
2 & 1/2 stars
Build a Rocket Boys! is Elbow’s fifth album and follow up from their 2008 Mercury award-winning The Seldom Seen Kid. The Brit-Rockers still pedal their guitar-orientated brand of melancholy, but this time have swapped cynicism for nostalgia.
The album is constructed as artfully as Elbow’s previous work. ‘The Birds’ sounds like mere textural build up but develops into an epic, beat driven, string swathed opener. ‘Neat Little Rows’ matches the swagger of ‘Grounds for Divorce’, showing that the band can still do catchy. Although the semi-orchestral moments (and there are a lot of them) can get tiring, they never feel gratuitous and it’s easy to appreciate the musical craftsmanship.
Similarly, there is no question of how much care Guy Garvey puts into his lyrics (this is the man who visits Peter Gabriel to “share thoughts” when experiencing writer’s block) and it wouldn’t be unfounded to compare his combination of swirling backing vocals and yearning lines with Sigur Ros’ atmospheric mastery. But tracks like ‘With Love’ give the game away. Garvey croons nakedly over a jerky piano and the listener is bombarded with his lyrics in panoramic view.
This is the anomaly of Elbow. They refuse to sit with Coldplay’s radio-friendly brand of sad guitar rock but can’t quite do it as intelligently as Radiohead. Build a rocket boys! may contain the answer tucked away at track number five: ‘Jesus is a Rochdale Girl’ is a song about first love, sung in Garvey’s damaged Mancunian accent over an unmistakably eighties Casio keyboard and understated acoustic guitar. For a moment, Elbow sound like the band that their overblown compositions and over thought lyrics desperately want them to be.