Fantastical, wandering lyrics and melodies aplenty - what is not to like about this latest addition to the Elbow canon? Over a soft drum beat, this is a record packed full of talented musicians taking time and passion to create the bluesy ‘northern soul' sound that Elbow have become famous for.
Yet for all of the jam session vibes this album sorely lacks variety. Musically, there is little discernible change from song to song, none of them really altering the pace dramatically. Even those that do, such as 'New York Morning', still have an echo in the rest of the album. This is not to say that this is a bad sound to strive for though. During the opening salvo of ‘This Blue World’ and ‘Charge’, you can’t help but be taken by the methodical pace, as it carries you off into heady thoughts. It should also be stated that, with Gus Garvey on vocals, it is extremely difficult to create an uninteresting song. His voice, gravely and soulful, further adds to the hazy melancholic tone of the songs.
Yet for an album which carries on like this for nearly an hour, without much in the way of variety, it requires something out of the ordinary to liven proceedings. This only really occurs on one occasion, but what an occasion it is! ‘My Sad Captains’ is one of the best individual songs I have heard this year and, at the very least, one of Elbow’s finest. It is only slightly more upbeat in its melody and pacing, but it stands out amongst the rest of the tracks with the kind of soulful lyrics that are a sure to be belted out by festival goers this summer.
After this song, though, the haze of the muffled drum and vocals grates towards the finale, to the point where many of the tracks simply potter along, rather than engage with the listener.
Elbow is undoubtedly a band in their creative prime, and one who resisted the temptation to try and recreate their big moment of glory from million record selling ‘Seldom Seen Kid’. They have stuck to a style that suits them, and on 'My Sad Captains', they demonstrate why they play for festival crowds. Yet by its finale, this album sounds lackadaisical and in real need of sharpening. In its current state, the length only serves to blunt the melodic excellence they aspire to.