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Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

2010-02-24 11:24
What could be better, if you’re into chocolate, than more chocolate? Or in Elbow’s case, more of that "I’m hurt, you hit me against the wall again", feeling, blown up, glorified, made beautiful.

Although this time round, the Manchester-born band do seem a bit happier. The Seldom Seen Kid appears to be all about being in love with someone you're terrified of losing, and to whom you're unabashedly devoted, in a ruefully ironic way that even boys can probably understand, and packed with lyrics just obscure enough to get the girls all analytical.

Their long melodies are still soaring and heartfelt without being cheese, their dramatic dynamics don’t seem naf, and songwriter Guy Carvey’s vocals seem to be hotwired to your heartstrings. Don’t cringe just yet - there’s nothing camp or cutesy about this band, who, being real artists and of no usual interest to the music media, most often feature in articles called stuff like "The top 10 ugliest bands of all time" alongside The Pogues.

In the meantime, they keep producing brilliant album after brilliant album, each with not a single bad track on it. Even the borderline pop-silly "Audience with the Pope" would be the best song on many other albums you’ll hear this year. They’re like that seldom seen or noticed kid at school, whose realised it’s more important to be loved by a few people, than popular with many. Except they fill stadiums, proving, perhaps, that true romance isn’t dead, even if rock ‘n roll deserves to be.

The Seldom Seen Kid has all the elements fans will expect from Elbow. Intriguing song titles, leading to lyrics so good it’s hard to pick one out, making songs that are anthems, riddles, morality tales, complaints, angry love songs with lines like "we kissed like we invented it" all composed in layers of sounds and counter point and perfectly produced, with a distinct influence of the old slave spirituals coming through on Seldom Seen Kid, blooming fully on the anti-booze "Grounds for Divorce", the "Picky Bugger" of this album.

But mainly, it’s about love, it seems. And hope, even if everything seems doomed to end badly.

Some people need to reinvent themselves, because they suck. People like Kylie, whose stylist is way more talented than she is. Others reinvent themselves because they can. Elbow probably can’t reinvent anything except their own wheel, but their fans would hate them if they did.


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