Elbow – Cast Of Thousands

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Album Review by EDF

The follow-up to their debut album ASLEEP IN THE BACK initially finds Elbow covering the same ground but then slowly moves off, taking the listener on a musical journey where their music is slowly digested for it to be fully appreciated. Elbow is not like every other group who are out to make instantly recognisable tunes; theirs is one where each listen results in its own rewards. While it has been said that Elbow sound gloomy, can this album change people’s perception of the group?

The opening track RIBCAGE initially sounds gloomy where the idea of “throwing me a lifeline” is lead singer Guy Garvey’s salvation that comes unexpectedly in the form of a soaring, uplifting gospel choir. FALLEN ANGEL, one of the cuts here released as a single is a plodding track that does not really step up to the next gear. FUGITIVE MOTEL, another single, is about going on tour and leaving their loved ones behind. The lyrics are brought to life by Garvey’s weariness, effectively expressed with restrained emotion. The playful upbeat rhythm of SNOOKS exists only to cover up the fact that there is a hint of jealously between Garvey and his friends. The restrained emotional SWITCHING OFF, a tragic track, hints of suicidal tendencies. The track is approached and delivered in such a way that it sounds similar to the great Peter Gabriel.

NOT A JOB is more upbeat than it should be, expressing that while the task can never be that important, it’s best to sleep off your woes or “walk through the long grass on your hands”. The slow jazz like I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER and CRAWLING WITH IDIOT both require a bit of patience to enjoy as the tunes and vocal delivery are a little stretched out. On the other extreme is BUTTONS AND ZIPS which is easily the most accessible track on the album. The big finale to the album is in the shape of GRACE UNDER PRESSURE with its acoustic Jimmy Page like guitar intro and Peter Gabriel (him again) like vocals and a slight assistance from The London Community Gospel Choir. With it’s soaring build-up strings and the cast of a few thousand singing Glastonbury fans, the track bumps into the two-minute end track FLYING DREAM.

While this is without a doubt a decent album, the only problem is that it is a bit too dark and dreary for the average rock fan. This seems to be the main problem with Elbow who seems to be content with producing a mood piece. If you were to compare them to Peter Gabriel, at least Gabriel knows how to craft even the darkest subjects with a glint of hope. For now, this will keep the group in the limelight but their third album will be a make or break situation.

4 stars