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The REMBOWAH WEEK pt 2 – the bow

11/03/2011
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Elbow have been emphasising on the recent interviews how, in a surprising twist, it’s been easy to write and record Build a Rocket Boys!. They’re one of those bands who have become almost legendary in the way they’ve been going their own path with major acclaim but little chart-topping for several albums, and then 2008’s somewhat more hit single packed The Seldom Seen Kid suddenly skyrocketed them to a massive hitmaker status. Continuing from that situation is associated with the difficulty of trying to balance all the aspects of the band so as not to disappoint the old fans or the ones who jumped on the train following the success of The Seldom Seen Kid. But no, not Elbow. The original writing sessions were faced with some issues but when the band found the angle they felt was natural and perfect, the rest of the sessions have been the easiest in the band’s career: the only one without the cartoon anvil hanging over their heads, as they’ve wonderfully put it.

That aura of easeness and relaxedness flows through Build a Rocket Boys!. This isn’t an album that’s hell-bent on following up the stadium singalong pop breakaways like “One Day Like This”. Instead, Build a Rocket is at times so relaxed and comfortable with itself that it actually ends up sounding somewhat uncommercial because of it: to my ears, there’s about two about two obvious singles here and one of them was heavily edited for its single release, and that’s far less than one might expect from the follow-up of a massive profile-raiser. It’s an album that savours the moment and allows it to settle in properly before moving onto somewhere else. Build a Rocket Boys is all about splendidly-crafted melodies set on top of a hazy, wearily positive mood that lingers around for a while, taking its time to build up in the cases where it actually wants to build up instead of simply enjoying the moment.

There isn’t really any non-cheesy way to slip this in a block of text so I’ll just say it outright: the key thing one comes to note from Build a Rocket Boys (sorry but not doing the exclamation mark anymore, it’s a bitch to fit in with all the other punctuation) is how utterly beautiful it is, a feeling only heightened by the gorgeous production that makes me want to list Craig Potter as one of my favourite producers at the moment. Build a Rocket is a lush, warm and delicate album, the sort of album that is designed to be sunk into and that feels like the most special thing in the world when it’s playing. To steal words from the BBC, it’s “music that feels like it cares about you”, and it expresses that through a soft, intimate lushness that can only be described as wonderfully beautiful. Even at places where it might seem unlikely: the gruff, rough pound-march lead single “Neat Little Rows” turns downright jubilant with the merry clanker of the piano in the chorus, while the vaguely spanish “High Ideals” might mainly consist of a rhythmic jam session and loud guitar stabs but still brings out a touch of class in the pretty orchestral parts it holds.

The end result is one mighty impressive unit of recorded music. Its only seeming fault isn’t even because of quality: the piano moment “The Night Will Always Win” seems a bit out of place in its particular place in the tracklist and feels a bit awkward, even though it’s a rather good song. Beyond that, it’s an impressively crafted piece of work. It seems like the financial security and opened-up possibilities that the breakthrough gave the band resulted in an environment where they felt they were able to just craft music without any pressure on their back. That feeling of being at ease is at the heart and core of Build a Rocket Boys and it’s what makes it so memorably effective, from the 8-minute gigantic sway and groove of “The Birds” that opens the album and is already one of the greatest things of 2011, to the hearfelt anthemics of “Open Arms” and the closing “Dear Friends” that sounds like a happier, warmer “Scattered Black and Whites” from the band’s debut. That description fits the album in general: while both share the heavily atmospheric sound, Build a Rocket Boys is the happier, worry-free flipside of the anxiety and gloom of Asleep in the Back.

Not a bad thing at all.

Lippy Kids

 

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