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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

The Seldom Seen Kid


Photo via MySpace

Ultimately, I think it might just be a matter of size. Elbow frontman Guy Garvey is a big guy. The one time I saw them live, he was confined to a chair due to a leg injury but even seated, he had enormous presence. He’s a big guy with a big voice and a beard, and he’s from Manchester. Based on this, it’s not unreasonable to expect that any band fronted by him might be ready to bring the rock at the drop of a hat, or at least get in a fight. It’s with this preconception that I’ve generally approached Elbow, starting with their last release Leaders Of The Free World, and it’s on that misconception that I’ve always felt a bit let down by them.

But with their latest, The Seldom Seen Kid, I think I’m starting to get it. Garvey is the sort of guy who may well sit anywhere he pleases at the pub on a Saturday night, but with a few pints in him he doesn’t get combative but poetic. He’d sooner drag himself to the piano in the corner and sing his heartbreak than pick a fight. Those seeking a musical punch up should look elsewhere – those willing sit a spell and actually listen, pull up a stool. This is not to say that Elbow are soft. They’re well aware of their weight and aren’t afraid to throw it around as necessary and seem to do so at least once a record – the lumbering stomp of “Grounds For Divorce” wears the title this time out – but even then it’s never a conventional rocker, more the threat of it.

The point is that Elbow are not a quick hit. It’s taken a few months of moderate rotation for The Seldom Seen Kid to begin to properly sink in – apparently I needed to listen closely. I’ll be revisiting Leaders Of The Free World in short order to see what, if anything, I missed there but even allowing for that record’s reconsideration I’d submit that Kid is a superior record, with a greater musical sweep and emotional resonance. Garvey’s no mean wordsmith but he also appreciates that while there’s a time for flowery prose, there’s also a time for raw directness – when he sings, “because it’s breaking my heart” in a cracked falsetto on “Some Riot”, you don’t notice that it’s a phrase that’s been used countless times in countless pop songs, you only notice that this man’s heart is genuinely breaking.

No sanctioned MP3s available from the record but there’s plenty to see and stream at the seldomseenkid.com promotional website. In The News has an interview with Garvey, who also fields readers questions at Drowned In Sound. And he tells NME and BBC that he’s pleased as punch that The Seldom Seen Kid has made the shortlist for this year’s Nationwide Mercury Prize.

Video: Elbow – “Grounds For Divorce”
Video: Elbow – “One Day Like This”
MySpace: Elbow

Oh yes, the final ten nominees for the Mercury Prize were announced yesterday. In addition to Elbow, the list features familiar names such as British Sea Power and Radiohead as well as a bunch of others I don’t know so well. I also don’t know offhand what the actual criteria for selecting a winner are, so I’ll refrain from offering any odds on who might take home… sorry, what’s the prize again? Cash? Is it cash? In Canada we give cash. What? £20,000? Well, that’s definitely not nothing. Anyway, Strange Glue has some of the official reasoning about the shortlist from the star chamber that selected the finalists, one of the judges blogs for The Guardian and The Daily Record asks a couple nominees what they’d do with the loot.

The Quietus has some video footage of British Sea Power’s recent show at the Museum of Natural History in London.

The Verve tell BBC that their much-ballyhooed reunion was hardly smooth sailing. The fruits of their labours – Forth – will be released on August 26.

Also on the reunion trail are James, who are bringing their new record Hey Ma to the Phoenix on September 23. Full North American tour dates at NME.

And one surprising reunion that’s probably of interest to only a handful of people – namely the ones in attendance when it happened – is that Chapterhouse got back together at the Truck Festival in the UK this weekend to play “Love Forever” with Ulrich Schnauss. Full details at NME. I swear at this rate every shoegaze band to ever have existed will be getting back together except the ones that I want.

Goldfrapp will be touring this Fall and has a date scheduled at the Danforth Music Hall for September 14. Full dates at Pitchfork, World Cafe session streamable at NPR.

Lucky Soul have blogged a progress report on the writing and recording of their second album. It doesn’t sound like that one will be done for some time, unfortunately.

The Go! Team are clearing out their cupboards and giving much of what they find away for frees. Head on over to register and see what’s up for grabs. They’re at the Phoenix on August 5.

Philadelphia’s Windsor For The Derby will be at the Drake Underground on August 29 in support of their new album How We Lost, tickets $8.50.

MP3: Windsor For The Derby – “Maladies”
MP3: Windsor For The Derby – “Hold On”

Also from Philly are Dr Dog, who will be touring their new album Fate – out yesterday – to the El Mocambo on October 3, tickets $10.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Old Days”
MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Ark”

Decidedly not from Philadelphia is New Zealand’s Liam Finn, who is still touring his album I’ll Be Lightning. He’ll be at the El Mocambo on October 4 and tickets are $12.

MP3: Liam Finn – “Second Chance”

Born Ruffians will play their biggest local headlining show yet on November 1 at the Opera House. $12.50 in advance gets you in.

Iron & Wine are hitting the road this Fall and will stop in at The Phoenix on November 13. Tickets $25.

M83 are coming back to town with New York’s School Of Seven Bells (ex-The Secret Machines and On!Air!Library!) for a show at the Opera House on November 20. Full dates at Pitchfork.

The Independent goes to town on the whole notion of “indie” in the UK, offering up choice quotes such as “landfill indie”, “firework band” and “like the sound of Satan’s scrotum emptying”. That is my new favourite phrase. I will endeavour to use it in conversation at least once a day. Via Coolfer.

By : Frank Yang at 8:28 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. stytzer says:

    Pretty much agree with your take on The Seldom Seen Kid, though I did somehow expect you to mention the ”guest star” appearance of Richard Hawley on the album. Doesn’t really matter though. It’s still a brilliant album!

  2. Scott says:

    Love Seldom Seen Kid… love Elbow. Was hoping there was a concert announcement in there LOL!

    As for the Chapterhouse reunion – apparently it was a one-off only… meaning it’s as big a tease as it is a reunion. Sadly. Would love to see them (though I agree with your big-three of reunion wants)…

  3. Joe says:

    Hey Frank,

    This is probably already on your list of things to do/mention, but in case it has slipped by you, Paul Westerberg has a new album out rather suddenly. The hook is that you can download the whole thing for the price of 49¢. (story: http://www.billboard.com/bb…)

    Amazon won’t sell the MP3 to people from outside the U.S. for whatever reason, but you can get it here: http://studio.tunecore.com/… With the exchange rate, it set me back a whole 51¢ – and it’s pretty decent, too.

  4. Annie Zaleski says:

    i would fly to england to see Ride. but i don’t think it’s ever going to happen. even though mark gardener is doing his solo stuff and isn’t making a ton of money, andy bell has oasis.

    *sigh*

  5. MB77 @ myspace says:

    Is there a way to preview that Westerberg album? Still stinging from Grandpa Boy.

  6. dB says:

    Thanks for that Independent link…"mortgage indie"…that’s classic.

  7. Erik T. says:

    Hi Frank-if you haven’t already, do check out Elbow’s ‘Cast Of Thousands,’ it’s my favorite of theirs. The Mercury Prize has a pretty good shortlist. My money is on Burial, just so he show’s up to the ceremony and we can all see who he is.

  8. alex says:

    If you don’t know about it, Guy’s radio show on 6 Music is pretty great – http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music