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Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

With Love

Review of Elbow’s build a rocket boys!

Photo via Elbowelbow.co.ukThe overarching storyline to Elbow’s career can generally be summed up as, “slow and steady wins the race”, with the race in question perhaps referring to the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, which they were nominated for in 2001 for their debut Asleep in The Back and finally won in 2008 for album number four, The Seldom Seen Kid. The adage could also apply to my own relationship with the band, which started with indifference to Asleep, complete ignorance to 2003’s Cast Of Thousands (though better late than never), respect with their third record Leaders Of The Free World (thankfully in time to see them live) and, in line with the Mercury jurors, something akin to love for The Seldom Seen Kid.

All of which is to say that the Mancunians’ fifth album build a rocket boys! was the first of theirs that I had been awaiting with hand-rubbing glee and though it’s not quite what I had expected, it hasn’t disappointed one bit. To the point of it not being what I was expecting, it’s hard to articulate what I mean by that as I don’t really know what I was expecting. Another record with the grandeur of Kid was unlikely, but the overt leanness of rocket was still surprising. From start almost to finish, it keeps things low and tight, the songs often built around a single unwavering chord or bass note like a pulse that must be kept strong and steady. The drama that Elbow excel at still manifests itself in swells and blooms throughout, but it’s not until the final tracks “Open Arms” and “Dear Friends” that it feels like the record is allowed to really exhale.

But despite the way things are constructed, tension is the last feeling that rocket evokes. Instead, it’s an almost preternaturally calm record – lead single “Neat Little Rows” is the only tune that you could consider a rocker – infused with a grace and sentimentality that’s distinctly Elbow. With orchestral and choral accents, it’s a recipe that from other bands’ kitchens might end up overly sappy but in Elbow’s masterful hands and delivered through Guy Garvey’s rough and yearning vocals, it deftly sidesteps melodrama pitfalls and is never anything less than gorgeous. For bystanders, the band’s Mercury win may have represented the culmination of a long career but clearly, for the band, it was just an affirmation that they were on the right track and people (like myself) were coming around. But they’re not done yet, not even close.

Though released in the UK and Canada since last month, build a rocket boys! gets a physical US release this week. The band plays its first North American show since Summer 2009 at Coachella and all indications are that a proper tour will follow later this year. Paste has an interview with Guy Garvey and the band have just released a video for the new record’s second single.

Video: Elbow – “Open Arms”
Video: Elbow – “Neat Little Rows”

Also making a return to America at Coachella – though a much longer hiatus – is Suede. The extensive reissue program for their back catalog which starts at the end of May in the UK and runs through the end of June will apparently also be happening in the US, though firm release dates haven’t been announced. Here’s hoping that it also includes more North American dates – even if they are with Fat Richard and not Bernard. Filter is marking the band’s return with a series of features all week including a history of and an interview with former Suede guitarist and Elastica leader Justine Frischmann. More will follow this week, and here’s one of the remastered tracks from last year’s The Best Of compilation.

MP3: Suede – “The Beautiful Ones”

NME reports that Bloc Party, their post-Intimacy hiatus apparently now at an end, will reconvene to work on a new record in September.

Pitchfork solicits a guest list from Ian Parton of The Go! Team while frontwoman Ninja has a quick chat with aux.tv.

Daytrotter serves up a session with Yuck, who also have a TunnelVision clip up at Pitchfork. They will be at The Phoenix on May 1.

The release of Patrick Wolf’s new album Lupercalia has been pushed back a couple of weeks from May 31 to June 20 worldwide, with a North American release date to be announced. DIY has the official statement from Wolf on the delay and an interview that talks about other things (almost certainly conducted before the delay was announced).

Spinner seems to have dug up an old interview with Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion, as it talks about last year’s Bye Bye EP and makes no mention of the fact that Hynes has shelved his Lightspeed Champion persona in favour of the funkier Blood Orange. That project’s debut release – the “Dinner”/”Bad Girls” 7″ – will be out on April 26 with a full-length to follow later this year.

Originally slated to come out in March, NME reports that Emmy The Great’s second album Virtue will now be out on June 13.

Noah & The Whale have put out a new video from Last Night On Earth.

Video: Noah & The Whale – “Tonight’s The Kind Of Night”

Interview speaks to Anna Calvi about the arm injury that forced the rescheduling of her North American debut dates. She will now be at The El Mocambo on May 27 and I hope that her inclusion on the just-released Osheaga lineup means there’ll be a return engagement come late July/early August.

Another day, another PJ Harvey video from Let England Shake.

Video: PJ Harvey – “On Battleship Hill”

The Fly reports that Johnny Marr has left The Cribs to devote more time to his solo project with The Healers and not reforming The Smiths. The Cribs have released a statement about the amicable parting of ways.

The latest Brit buzz band Brother will be at The Horseshoe on May 3 for a free show. The Slough Observer has an interview with their native sons; Live 4 Ever also has a chat.

Video: Brother – “Still Here”

Art Brut will bring their new record Brilliant! Tragic! to The Mod Club on June 17 as part of NXNE. The record is out May 23 and a second track from the album is available to download at Pledge Music.

MP3: Art Brut – “Lost Weekend”

Gomez will follow up the June 6 release of Whatever’s On Your Mind with a date at The Phoenix on July 17; tickets $26 in advance.

Though Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfiend has done quite well for himself solo, he and his band have reconvened for a new record in Walk The River and it is streaming in whole right now at Hype Machine in advance of its release next week. The Independent has a feature piece.

Stream: Guillemots / Walk The River

Wild Beasts have released a video from their new record Smother, due out May 10.

Video: Wild Beasts – “Albatross”

Interview does its thing with James Allan of Glasvegas. Euphoric Heartbreak is out today.

The Georgia Straight, Vancouver Sun and Montreal Gazette chat with Two Door Cinema Club.

By : Frank Yang at 8:23 am
Category: General

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  1. Review of Elbow’s build a rocket boys! | WAKAZ says:

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  2. Iskra says:

    Spot on review of elbow (both the band and the album) I was actually lukewarm on Asleep but went nuts for Cast of Thousands. Not a Job is one of my favorite songs ever. The new album is exactly as you described it, not what I was expecting (not that I even know what I was expecting) but really great nonetheless. They deserve all the attention they’ve been getting.