Where To Start With... Elbow
Taken at face value, the word 'elbow' might seem like a staggeringly underwhelming name for band, especially one whose knack for creating universally listenable tunes has seen them become a regular fixture in the record collections of both young and old alike. But just like the band themselves and the music they create, there's more to their moniker than is immediately obvious and when you discover that the name is actually taken from a quote in Denis Potter's The Singing Detective – in which Michael Gambon's Philip Marlow describes 'elbow' as “the loveliest word in the English language” - the name suddenly seems like the perfect fit for a band fronted by Guy Garvey, widely regarded as one of the loveliest and most down-to-earth figures on the music scene.
For the last couple of decades, Garvey and co. have been carving out a niche for themselves as purveyors of anthemic tunes that perfectly straddle the boundaries between alternative and mainstream, writing complex but accessible songs with lyrics that are emotive and relatable, featuring the kind of soaring, euphoric melodies that have seen the band become stadium-fillers without all of the over-the-top showmanship that implies.
While their first three albums earned the band a steady following, it was their fourth LP – 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid – that saw the band winning the Mercury Prize for their efforts and gaining the kind of recognition that everyone who was paying attention had been saying they deserved for years. Since then, the band have become something of a national treasure, penning music for Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony at the London 2012 and performing a career-defining set on Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage in 2014.
The last couple of years have seen some changes though, with the band's drummer Richard Jupp departing early last year and various members of the band working on side projects, including Guy Garvey's 2015 solo debut Courting the Squall. That year did also see a new EP from the band, Lost Worker Bee, intended to tide their fans over until their next album proper.
Then, back in December of last year, the band finally announced the title of their seventh album, Little Fictions, which arrives in stores today (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of this page). So what can expect this time around?
Lead-off single and album opener 'Magnificent (She Says)' finds the band in familiar territory, complete with sweeping strings and Garvey's trademark soaring vocal melodies. Of the other singles released so far, 'All Disco' is not, as the title might suggest, Elbow-does-the-Bee-Gees, but instead a lush, lilting number inspired by a quote from Pixies frontman Frank Black. 'Gentle Storm' on the other hand is much more minimalist affair, largely consisting of just Garvey's vocals and a hypnotic drumbeat, with sparingly-used piano chords padding things out.
Elsewhere on the album, other highlights include the slow-building, near-cinematic spectacle of the album's title track and 'Trust The Sun', which has a touch of Kid A-era Radiohead about it and is one of the album's most mesmerising moments.
There are no particularly radical departures in terms of the band's sound on Little Fictions, but the album is a little more understated than 2014's The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. That said, it still as the uplifting tunes, the relatable lyrics and the odd moment of euphoria here and there – everything you'd hope for from an Elbow album, in other words.
You can find the video for 'Magnificent (She Says)' below, beneath that we've picked five of the band's finest moments as a guide for those unfamiliar with their back catalogue...
'Any Day Now'
The opening salvo from their 2001 debut Asleep in the Back, 'Any Day Now' is one of the most simple things Elbow have done, based around just two chords throughout, but its minimalist approach is extremely effective and hints at greater things to come.
'Leaders of the Free World'
By the time of their third album, 2005's Leaders of the Free World, the band were really hitting their creative stride and of all the album's great tunes, the title track is a real standout moment and features some of Garvey's best lyrics on the album: “The leaders of the free world are just little boys throwing stones / And it's easy to ignore 'til they're knocking on the doors of your homes”.
'Grounds for Divorce'
Probably still one of the band's best-known songs thanks to its repeated use in films like Burn After Reading and Fox's medical drama House, 'Grounds for Divorce' was one of the songs taken from the band's Mercury-winning fourth album The Seldom Seen Kid and features a grinding riff and chorus refrain perfectly suited to tearing the roof off large venues. Still one of their best ever moments and a perennial live favourite.
The song from which their 2011 album Build a Rocket Boys! takes its name, this is one of the album's more tender moments but it still has that rousing feel that Elbow are so good at and it's always one of the best moments at any live show.
'One Day Like This'
We simply couldn't have a list of Elbow's best tracks without including this. Another cut from The Seldom Seen Kid, this remains the band's crowning achievement, a proper, gig-ending showstopper that cannot fail to put you in a good mood. The big strings, the rousing chorus and that killer hook: “Throw those curtains wide / One day like this a year'd see me right.” It's glorious.