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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > Nov 2019 > Elbow

Elbow

Elbow return witha hard-hitting masterpiece that in Guy Garvey’s own words is “bleak, but witha huge heart”. John Earls finds solace in the band’s most definitive statement yet

GIANTS OF ALL SIZES POLYDOR

As Elbow tell Long Live Vinyl elsewhere this month, you can largely divide their career into Old Elbow and New Elbow. Since The Seldom Seen Kid made them massive, you can rely on Elbow to provide solace, but in a less experimental fashion than on early singles like Newborn and Forget Myself. Their gig setlists have largely shunned pre-fame material in favour of the music that works best for a communal mood. You can’t blame them for it, and their last two albums reached No 1. But, by 2017’s Little Fictions, Elbow were in danger of becoming predictable. Giants Of All Sizes fixes that, a refreshing and bracing record bothmusically and in Guy Garvey’s wracked lyrics.

If it wasn’t their stated aim, these nine songs hark back to debut album Asleep In The Back, when Elbow were equally obsessed by Peter Gabriel and Massive Attack. Withthe four band members developing song ideas on their own, there’s a variety of styles. If Craig Potter apparently sometimes went too far in trying to get hip-hop production into the band, On Deronda Road is still a very modern love song, its bubbling beats more Four Tet than One Day Like This. Bassist Pete Turner’s Doldrums is an unsettling and fraught spaghetti western, as Garvey and his Brixton studio neighbour Chilli Chilton’s vocals do battle like Tom & Jerry by way of Saw. Seven Veils apparently started out sounding like Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, but has ended up as rumbling gospel withone of Garvey’s most beautiful vocal performances in a career full of them.

Best of all is White Noise White Heat. Elbow’s last full-throttle rocker Grounds For Divorce was spiritually a convivial drinking anthem. Not here – Garvey’s fury at the Tory government’s Russian dolls of vindictive rulers and his despair at his music’s ultimate inability to change anything makes for a stunning angry howl. For an album that starts withthe line “I don’t love Jesus anymore”, White Noise White Heat is an Old Testament warning of the apocalypse if mankind doesn’t sort out its morals. Even when staying in their recent comfort zone, guitarist Mark Potter’s The Delayed 3:15 is a sparse John Martyn-inflected rumination, before the moving Weightless ends the album on a hard-fought note of redemption.

In marrying their established gift for offering the listener succour to a reminder that they’re capable of pretty much anything when they want, Giants Of All Sizes is the definitive Elbow album. In releasing the seven-minute twister Dexter & Sinister as its first single, the band have made it clear they’re happy to provide empathy one pair of headphones at a time rather than arena by arena. It’s an album to lose yourself in, in solitude. Do so. You’ll emerge wiser for it. 9

By 2017’s Little Fictions, Elbow were in danger of becoming predictable. Giants Of All Sizes fixes that

Big Thief

TWO HANDS

4AD

The “Celestial Twin” to May’s U.F.O.F. album arrives only five months later, the fourthrelease in as many years from Brooklyn’s alt-folk workaholics. If that level of prolific output suggests a lack of quality control, forget such notions, as Two Hands is arguably the band’s best collection yet and more immediate than its recent sibling. It’s also a record focused heavily on the impending climate crisis we face and man’s ruthless destruction of Mother Nature, even if that line of attack is sometimes shrouded in metaphor. It’s pretty overt in the excellent, folky anti-anthem Forgotten Eyes, and The Toy, on the latter the band’s vocalist and chief songwriter Adrianne Lenker mournfully noting, “What a tomb we’re building here/ In the sphere, that’s where we’ll all die”. On Shoulders, too, she implores us to “Please wake up” from collective inaction. The pinnacle is Not, an uncomfortable, smouldering piece of lyrical repetition split apart by a gloriously unpolished guitar solo. A mainstay of the band’s live sets for some time, they finally nailed a recorded version at Sound City in LA after the initial album sessions in El Paso, Texas had wrapped up. Be thankful they did – it’s one of the most thrilling pieces of music you’ll hear all year. Endless touring and ceaseless writing has brought Big Thief to the point where they share a near-telepathic musical connection and Lenker stands as one of the most thoughtful, potent writers of her generation, determined to keep challenging herself. How far they’ve come in just four years – and this is just the beginning. Gary Walker 9

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About Long Live Vinyl

Tonight, we're gonna party like it's 1999… Issue 32 of Long Live Vinyl brings you an exclusive first look inside the huge new 15LP Prince boxset as members of the Purple genius' band and his closest friends tell the story of the original 1999 album. We also hear from Estate Manager Michael Howe why this is only the beginning for Prince collectors. Pick up your copy to find out which releases are coming next from the Paisley Park vault. Elsewhere, in our packed interviews section, we sit down with Elbow, Big Thief, Adam Green and Jason Isbell to chat about their new albums, as well as delving into the history of the legendary Palm Tree label, Island Records, as they celebrate their 60th birthday. Fab Four fans should check out our Essential Beatles solo albums collector's guide. Plus we visit the Premier League referee who's running his own record shop, as well as taking an in-depth look at The XX's Mercury Prize-winning album xx. If all that's not enough, you'll find the widest range of new album, reissue and hi-fi reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers. Pick up your copy today!