Elbow | The Take Off and Landing of Everything (Concord)

Elbow-Take-Off-Landing-EverythingLove was not just holding hands in an Elbow song; it was more complicated—not as pretty, but somehow more real.


elbow 2014 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Elbow. Part of it is their latest release—The Take Off and Landing of Everything—a metaphor for the flux in the lives of the band’s members of late, with relationships, children, and the events of life. They have, among very few bands, been a constant for me over the last decade. They’ve produced fine albums that are recognized by both their popularity and quality. They are practically an institution, and I don’t think that necessarily comes from being cutting edge or constantly reinventing their sound. Elbow is a constant, and I think what they do is provide a soundtrack to our lives that is succinct and seems to capture the slow-motion path we all take. What Guy Garvey and Co. do is insert a large helping of personal emotion into their albums. They aren’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeves, even if it means that hits come from working against the obvious.

A perfect example is the current single, “New York Morning.” The song is a love letter to Brooklyn, if only in the way it looks in awe at the movement and interaction of its multimillion inhabitants:

Me I see a city and I hear a million voices
Planning, drilling, welding, carrying their fingers to the nub
Reaching down into the ground
Stretching up into the sky
Because they can
They did and do
So you and I could live together

I grew up in New York and I lived in the city for years, and there is not a day when I don’t think about those streets. This song sums it up in such a beautiful, subtle way. Outright anthems such as “New York, New York” or “New York State of Mind” offer effusive praise, while Garvey’s words encapsulate the magnitude of a simple sunrise in that city. It is subtle and beautiful, and who but Garvey would think to give props to the city for being nice to Yoko? Garvey has said that the song came fully formed out of a diary entry from 2012 when he spent nearly a year in Brooklyn (working on, of all things, a musical about King Kong). It is sly observations like these that have made Elbow a standout band since its debut Asleep in the Back in 2001. On that release, there were songs about the pride of being the one to hold a friend as they went through detox and about a girl in this facility. Love was not just holding hands in an Elbow song; it was more complicated—not as pretty, but somehow more real. 

Elbow’s tactic on this album was somewhat different from previous in that Garvey wrote each song apart from the rest of the band; this way, he brought a much more complete version of the song to the band for finalization. It points to how talented the band is, both together and separately.

One of the best on the album is “Charge,” which reveals the thoughts of a longtime patron of a bar who finds himself overlooked by the new younger patrons:

I am electric
With a bottle in me
Got a bottle in me
And glory be these fuckers are ignoring me
I’m from another century

The melancholy in Garvey’s voice is honest; you hear the pain he carries and shares, as he has in all half-dozen albums. Like the consummate actor, he inflicts himself into the part he is playing.

The Take Off and Landing of Everything travels from the deeply intimate of a man drinking his way through life, to the beating heart of Garvey’s second city, so it is fitting that the album closes with the tale of immigrants on a passage across the sea. “The Blanket of the Night” talks of taking a risk to find a new life, the belief that something is better out there, ahead of us. Like much of what Elbow has offered over the last 12 years, it reflects a subtle beauty in that danger and in that belief, for just like life, we find beauty. 

There are no surprises on this album, which for this band is a good thing. They stick to tried-and-true, lush arrangements of meandering songs that buffet Garvey’s distinct vocals, lyrics that find a crease in your brain and won’t let go, and an album that seems to creep upon you like a vine. A | Jim Dunn


Video for “New York Morning”: http://youtu.be/cqnIbueM5fE

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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