Friday, October 7th, 2005
Manchester’s Elbow and I got off on entirely the wrong foot. Their debut album Asleep In The Back came out when I was at prety much the nadir of my Britpop interest. I’d heard a track or two on some compilations but it didn’t quite grab me enough to pursue. I had a very low tolerance for anything that sounded remotely Coldplay-ish so into the “ignore” pile they went. Fast-forward four years to the release of their third album, Leaders Of The Free World. I’m feeling much more generous to music from the UK these days, and the glowing reviews piqued my interest. Thanks to the good folks at V2, I got a copy of the new album to investigate.
Short answer? It’s very good. There isn’t much in the way of pop hooks to catch the ear on early listens, but that’s because the true strengths of the record move deeper below the surface, moving slowly with great weight and determination. It actually took me a little while to identify what it was that I was hearing from this record – it sounded familiar, yet long-forgotten. It wasn’t like my alt.country records, or my shoegaze stuff, or pure pop. Then it hit me – this is rock. Not ironic cock-rock bullshit or fake aggro suburban metal, but thoughtful, muscular-yet-delicate, singularly British epic rock the likes of which Radiohead used to make and which I used to love. That love affair ended not just because my tastes changed but because there didn’t seem to be any more purveyors of the style after the ‘Head went all Kid A on us.
Over the course of 49 minutes, Leaders Of The Free World swells, soars and offers drama, gravitas and emotion while avoiding the pitfalls of pretentiousness or preciousness. The instrumentation is as lush or austere as required, anchored by singer-guitarist Guy Garvey’s elastic rasp which reminds me more than just a little of Peter Gabriel. Upon rereading the last few paragraphs, I wonder if I might be a little over-effusive with my praise – it sort of sounds like I’m anointing Leaders Of The Free World the album of the year. I’m not. It’s good, surprisingly so, but it’s not changed my world. What it has done, and I’m thankful to it for this, is re-introduced and reinvigorated a style of music I’d wrtten off and/or forgotten about.
Though the album has been out for a little while now, the media machine hasn’t caught on yet – I’ve been able to find very little link-worthy press. Just this piece from Manchester Online wherein they talk to the hometown boys about the making of Leaders Of The Free World. If there’s any justice, however, this album will get the attention it deserves – it surely stomps on much more hyped 2005 albums from the likes of Oasis and Coldplay.
Macleans profiles/reviews Broken Social Scene/Broken Social Scene. I got my copy yesterday. One-listen impression? It’s a dense album and will take some time to dig through. You Forgot It In People was the same way, but there were the all-out pop numbers to bring you back to the surface for air – not so much on this one. I expect/hope that it will still ultimately prove as enjoyable/rewarding, but time will tell the tale.
And speaking of Metric and Feist and Broken Social Scene, Under The Radar loves Canada. We love you too.
Tom Vek is at the Drake on November 10. Wanna know a secret? I have no idea who Tom Vek is. I only posted this because I’ve seen his name on other cool kids blogs. What should I know about him?
More Bob Mould news – Billboard reports that tonight’s show in Washington, DC will be recorded for release as a live DVD. And after the current full-band electric tour wraps up, Mould will hit the road again for an acoustic tour – no Toronto date for that one, though.
eye’s comic-friendly column The Panelist closes out its last column with a profile of Neil Gaiman, who is in town tomorrow for a reading of Anansi Boys. It appears eye is rebranding themselves in a few weeks time and from the look of the ads in this week’s issue, they’re going for a “sick”, “suggestive” and “penetrating” direction. Eww.
np – Broken Social Scene / Broken Social Scene