E is for… Elbow

(Image by Evita wiki via Wikimedia)

OK so first let's get this out of the way, I absolutely hate that Manchester scene crap from the 90s. The Madchester (spit) bloody tosh from such luminary bellends as Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, James, The Charlatans, The Stone sodding Roses and that swaggering Gallagher penis can all do one, alright? (And no this isn't the embittered tirade of an erstwhile Blur fan… the winner of the Blur vs Oasis "war" of the mid 90s was clearly the far superior Pulp.)

Right. But one very successful band from '90s Manchester (a fantastic place, by the way – I have no quarrel with the city) have been in my desert island discs for some time now, and that band is – as observant listeners will have gathered from the headline – Guy Garvey's long-serving troupe Elbow.

This is by some margin the most mainstream of my 26 alphabetical selections (it is by the narrowest of whims that you are not currently reading about Swiss Celtic Folk Metal), and the reason for their inclusion is that it still dismays me how often I wax lyrical about them to people who can't name a single Elbow song, and despite my frothing I can see that they have already mentally moved on and aren't going to be checking them out any time soon, as they've already decided this band are not for them.

So here is one band you have probably heard of, but maybe only in passing, and honestly that isn't how they work. Elbow are an album band, not a single band. You are unlikely to hear one song of theirs and immediately fall in love, but put an album on while there are no distractions – maybe while you commute, or do the washing up, say – and perhaps then Garvey's evocative lyrics and the band's emotive layered instrumentations will hopefully have a chance to take hold.

I love 'em. They are still one of my most used "I'm having a bad day and today I seem to hate all music, what the hell can I listen to to stop me stabbing everyone I can see starting with myself" go-to saviours, and they never fail to sock me right in the feels. Some years ago a colleague had lent me Cast of Thousands when I felt like taking an uncharacteristic break from hard rock for the day, and it felt like I had been given an hour off from eternally pushing boulders uphill and given a lovely soft sofa to lie on while someone rubbed my feet, only for the soul. You get me?

What do they sound like, you clamour. Well, they sound like… Elbow, to be honest. I don't have anything to directly compare them to. Pulp would be the best I could hazard, though with one caveat… they sound nothing like Pulp.

I don't think I'm getting this across very well. This is why they glaze over, isn't it? Damn. Go listen, maybe you understand?

Clive recommends:

Every album is a joy in its way, but I would hope that Cast of Thousands might reel you in the way it did me.

Video evidence

While Cast of Thousands is still my favourite Elbow album, my favourite song of theirs comes from 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid. Ladies, Gentlemen and Evil Dave, please enjoy "Grounds For Divorce".

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