Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
- Doug Johnstone
- 13 March 2008
Mancunian troubadours Elbow have always been at the more inventive end of the indie spectrum. Their restless musical experimentalism has garnered a mountain of critical acclaim, but their refusal to take the easy route has seen them often overtaken in the popularity stakes by the generation of epic soundscapers they’ve inspired, from Coldplay to Editors and beyond.
But that doesn’t seem to worry frontman Guy Garvey and co, at least on this evidence. Because the five-piece band push the boat out once more on this fourth long player, creating often astonishing sounds and musical textures which have you scratching your head and applauding in admiration in equal measure.
Opener ‘Starlings’ is a case in point: an extraordinary mood piece whose melancholic flutters and twitches are disturbed by explosions of manic energy to spellbinding effect, much like a flock of the birds in the title.
Elsewhere, the single ‘Grounds for Divorce’ displays Garvey’s bleakly comic worldview (he’s undoubtedly one of the finest lyricists in the country at the moment) over a Cajun-influenced rawk riff, which really shouldn’t work but does wonderfully.
As always with Elbow, there is a home for the quietly epic in The Seldom Seen Kid, the zenith of which is ‘One Day Like This’, a song which actually makes brilliant use of a string section, rather than the usual tack-on most indie types employ.
This album is too interesting to be Elbow’s breakthrough into the commercial big league, but is all the better for that.