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.
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.
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.
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.
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.