This is a post that should have happened weeks ago. Work, vacation, more work, other bullshit in life, more work … yeah, all excuses since everyone knows Elbow is my favorite band in the world. Maybe I am just pissed because once again the band bypassed Phoenix on tour. Hell, I would have even made the trip down to Tucson to see these guys. This go-around I did not make the trip to another city (Denver in 2008, Los Angeles in 2011) to catch these guys live and I am sure I will regret that after seeing them on The Tonight Show last night.
However, I was reminded while watching them perform “New York Morning” live from their sixth album The Take Off and Landing of Everything that I had posted my review of the album on the Stinkweeds site but not here on The Musings yet. That is a pathetic oversight. Here you go folks, it’s a long one so grab a cup of joe first.
I have no problem stating the fact that I feel Elbow is the greatest band in the world right now and more important, with all the great music I have listened to over the years this band right now is my favorite of all-time. Yes, over Echo and the Bunnymen, Bob Mould and all of his work in a band and solo, The Ramones, early R.E.M. and U2, Agent Orange and Gang of Four. I came late to the party, not being introduced to Elbow until after the band’s third album Leaders of the Free World was released but it did not take long for me to grab every possible disc I could find of the band.
Therefore, every time Elbow has released a new album since then impatience overcame me, coercing me to pre-order the disc online first so I could have it right away before heading into Stinkweeds for the official physical CD copy. Neither occasion was I disappointed as 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid was my top pick that year and my second favorite album of all-time behind Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain, while 2011’s Build a Rocket Boys was my #3 pick that year.
I say all this because I went into the initial listening of The Take Off and Landing of Everything with heavy, heavy expectations. Once again I had the album on the iPod a week before the physical release so I could get a jump on things and my expectations have more than been meet. Holy cow, this is amazing album and before even getting to the actual review I can already tell you this will probably be my #1 pick of 2014. Folks, that has nothing to do with bias toward the band itself, this has everything to do with the fact (in my opinion) that this is a near flawless piece of work from a band that continues to evolve and expand on its greatness.
The lead track to this ten song album is “This Blue World”, my favorite song from The Take Off and Landing of Everything. I am a firm believer a first track does not necessarily have to be the best track on the album but does need to be a song that immediately grabs your attention and motivates you to keep listening. The gentle, subtle drum beat from Richard Jupp is the perfect backdrop for the vocal delivery from the greatest front man in music today Guy Garvey. The tempo and style of this track are very delicate and mellow, which for many bands does not work but for Elbow delicate many times is equal to incredibly powerful. The last two lines of the song, “While three chambers of my heart beat true and strong with love for another, The fourth is yours forever” provide evidence of just how intense this track is, but this is a not a stereotypical love song. The track leads into one of the central themes of this album, Garvey’s break-up with his partner of eight years. Therefore, the song is not a love song but instead a tune designed to pay respect to that former partner and that theme continues throughout The Take Off and Landing of Everything.
The band has grown up and while the last album reflected on what the past was like The Take Off and Landing of Everything brings to the forefront an aging, reflective, introspective Guy Garvey, a philosophy that allows the album to be powerful in a more disciplined manner. Part of me was hoping Elbow would create a “rock” album on its sixth disc (right Bobby?), a dramatic change from what the band has created on its past two discs. That did not happen but the pace on this album is perfect. All ten songs possess a myriad of pop hooks which is an Elbow standard but what I really enjoyed on this album was the fact it feels like more of a full band record, rather than the Guy Garvey solo album the last disc sometimes felt like.
The first two songs fans had a chance to hear before the album was released were “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” and “New York Morning”. “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” was intriguing, very reminiscent of the band’s work from the Asleep in the Back days. I love the addition of the saxophone to the mix and the distinct change in style at the 3:10 mark of the song. “New York Morning” is another feather in the cap in terms of the Elbow “anthem” that appears on every record. Garvey’s love affair with the city is very obvious in the track and he even pays homage to Yoko Ono during one of the lines.
“Real Life (Angel)” possesses one of the smoothest grooves Elbow has laid down on vinyl, “Honey Sun” showcases some of the best harmonies from the other four members of the band, not only on this album but from the other five discs as well, while “Colour Fields” possesses a very cool little backbeat created on the keyboards that plays perfectly into Garvey’s delivery of contemplative lyrics such as “The secret chainmail gown of your father’s blessing”.
The ninth song on the album, the title track from The Take Off and Landing of Everything could have been my favorite track on the disc. The epic beginning to the song, the powerful drums from Richard Jupp and the distinct harmonies all make this a special track. The length of this song, clocking in at 7:11 is the only issue. The song could easily have been trimmed in half, cutting out some of the repetitiveness at the end. However, the tone and tempo of this song are the perfect build-up to the end of the album with “The Blanket of Night”, a very somber track punctuated by the eerie keyboard sound created by keyboardist, pianist and producer Craig Potter.
The other two tracks from this album both have the potential in my opinion to go down as Elbow classics in the same manner tracks such as “Powder Blue”, “Station Approach” and especially “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver” are held in that high regard. “My Sad Captains” has to be considered the quintessential Guy Garvey song in terms of vocal delivery and lyrical content such as the opening line of “I’m running out of my miracles”. The repeated response throughout the track of “oh my soul” adds to the theme of aging in the song, punctuated by the line of “Another sunrise with my sad captains, With you I choose to lose my mind.” The track that may get the most attention is the second song on the album “Change”. The song details an older gentleman’s feeling about a lack of respect from younger patrons at a bar. The theme may be simple but Garvey’s repeated cries of “Glory be …” create a serious bit of tension. It is a song outside the normal scope of an Elbow track. I love it.
Like I mentioned earlier, this has the feeling of a more complete Elbow album than Build a Rocket Boys did. Guitarist Mark Potter and Pete Turner on the bass guitar provide exemplary work once again and I love the way the band created this particular album. It was the first time all of the members of Elbow were not all in the studio at the same time during the recording process, with each member coming in at different times to add his respective takes to a track. A unique process indeed that Factory Records producer Martin Hannett encouraged, preaching “Never have a full band in the studio. Always hold someone back.” The change in style has paid off on this record.
Critiques of The Take Off and Landing of Everything have ranged from some people stating this is Elbow’s greatest triumph to others feeling the band played it too safe on the record. While I don’t think this album approaches the epic majesty of The Seldom Seen Kid, I strongly feel it is one of the band’s best efforts and solidifies its place as the greatest band in the world. Pick up The Take Off and Landing of Everything today, this is one heck of an outstanding record!
Hope you enjoyed folks, and hope you like that little clip of Guy Garvey and Craig Potter. Still can’t find the actual clip of them playing “New York Morning”. Cheers!