Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (Rating: 8.5 out of 10)
I've never met a person who was an Elbow fan. I've brought them up many times, too get a few nods, a few yawns and a few wondering who would name their band Elbow. Elbow existence seems tolerated and begrudged but I truly don't understand why. Even the front man's name wreaks of normalcy, Guy Harvey. It's bland and boring. While Elbow's The Seldom Seen Kid may be considered a bit bland, it's surely not boring.
Elbow's last few albums have a trademark haunting, orchestral sound where the music is triumphant, complimented by bleak lyrics, kind of like the theme music for a haunted music hall. The Seldom Seen Kid opens with "Starlings," sounding the beacon sounds of the album announcing your arrival into the album. It is a complete album, a collection of well constructed from song to song, thematically continuous, and not just a slapped together collection of independent tracks. "Starlings'" triumphant blaring of a collection of horns, abruptly stops and resoundingly restarts toying with the listener's emotional experience leading into a twinkling bells, a bit of lyrical content and back to the horn explosion.
The first half of the album is particularly strong, "Mirrorball," "An Audience with the Pope," "The Bones of You" even featuring the musical samplings of Gershwin and the album's centerpiece "Grounds for Divorce." Harvey delivers the songs opening line at the start of the track as if the song were about to end, a lyric that includes the album's title "Mondays is for drinking to the seldom seen kid" as if he is finishing the previous song. Next comes the nonsensical signature lyric of the song that has indelibly been stuck in my head, the memorable mark. I find myself mumbling "I've been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce" randomly since I first heard it months ago.
It's immediately followed by the song's third major defining characteristic, a robust, extended choir-like chant of "Whoaaaaah!" by what must be all the memebers of the band. These major elements appear just within the first fifteen seconds. "Ground"'s strongest musical element appearts in the crunchy sound ofbridge/breakdown after the chorus. "Ground For Divorce" is one of the catchiest songs of 2008 and one that this writer has still not gotten tired of even after many repeat repetitions since the album's release six months ago. Take a listen to "Grounds for Divorce" yourself in their wild west sallon themed video:
Seldom's second half isn't as strong but it does have the excelence achieved on "Grounds For Divorce" as a major point of comparison, often a problem when an album features such a highlight track. Still, Elbow is a model of consistency, the kind of band that seems to be ignored because they aren't flashy.
I might be on the wrong side of the ocean as these Brits have never made much of a dent in the US. Still, their recent victory of the prestigious Mercury Prize should bring them some further notoriety, a few magazine features, and a couple of album sales for those who respect the prize. Although some saw the win as a sham such as Playlouder which wrote Why Elbow was the wrong choice for the Mercury Prize.
I would have to agree with some of the premise. Basically, there were more deserving album's nominated especially Radiohead's In Rainbows but Radiohead doesn't need more awards or notoriety but that's a cop out excuse. Still that shouldn't taint the superb work Elbow put into The Seldom Seen Kid. Congrats to the band on their prize and here's to hoping that the following up is a worthy sucessor.
Note: Back in the day, when I did have a previous review in my old critiquing days of Cast of Thousands
More Elbow Links:
The Seldom Seen Kid - Metcritic Ratings
Elbow on Myspace