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Here’s what’s missing out from Dead in the Boot


Elbow are releasing their long-awaited b-side compilation Dead in the Boot at the end of this month, several years after it was first mentioned. What wasn’t known until its release announcement was that rather than serve as a way for fans to fill the gaps and gain access to an alternate history of great songs, we’re treated with a 13-song choice cuts collection. While it’s rude to complain about such releases, as a combined Elbow fan, completionist and b-side obsessee it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. For most parts the song selection is fairly well done (if a bit one-sided so expect a lot of subtle, low-key melancholism) and I’m ever-so-happy that the glorious “Buffalo Ghosts” made the cut, but it’s also missing out a fair bit of stuff that would have been great to have there. Like these, for example.


Why this band seems to intentionally ignore this song, I don’t understand. The original version, found on the their debut Noisebox EP, was conspicuously left off the Asleep in the Back re-release a few years back despite all the other songs from the EP making an appearance there – doubly sad considering it’s one of their best songs. And now the later re-recording gets a similar cold shoulder treatment from Dead in the Boot. Even if it’s not as great as the original version, it’s still an immense, amazing song that quietly rages and desperately explodes with crashing drums, funeral organs, roaring guitars and an absolutely brilliant vocal part from Garvey (as well as the excellent backing vocals).

SUFFER (Powder Blue, 2001)

In an alternate dimension this stylishly gloomy song, driven by a steady bass and some more of those lovely organs, could have been a single. It’s certainly got the catchiness value required for such a job.


Propelled forward by a constantly pulsating rhythm, backed by distorted guitar noise, accentuated by classy xylophone touches and features a chant of “we all love Columbo”. It’s definitely a b-side but it has a weird charming power to it.

BRAVE NEW SHAVE (Fallen Angel, 2003)

The step brother of “Grace Under Pressure” from Fallen Angel’s mother album: that same build-and-explode structure fueled by strong drums, organ and Garvey’s mantra-like vocals but reinterpreted in a more single-like manner. Boggles me why this was left off.

LOSS (Fallen Angel, 2003)

Smoooooth. A chilled-out and loungy little number about, well, loss that charms with its suave little groove. A little bit cool, a little bit self-aware, a little bit lovely.

BEAT FOR TWO (Inside I’m Dancing OST, 2004)

Here’s where Dead in the Boot could have done a real cultural favour. The inclusion of the charity album song “Snowball” in the compilation shows that the band were willing to go outside b-sides. Well, here’s a gorgeous, string-laden song that’s only been available on the credit sequence of a semi-obscure Irish indie film which never got a soundtrack release. It sounds like an Elbow classic in the making and it would have really needed the inclusion considering, you know, it’s never been officially released outside the film’s credits.

STRANGEWAYS TO HOLCOMBE HILL IN 4.20 (Forget Myself, 2005)

One of Elbow’s few instrumentals and the only one that appears more as a fleshed-out song than just a short snippet of one. Also an atypically aggressive (in thrust, not mood) and driven song for the otherwise rather restrained band. This would have not only offered some variation amidst all the slow-paced melancholy of the compilation but it would have also showcased another side to Elbow that’s rarely seen. And it’s a pretty excellent song on top of it all.

THE GOOD DAY (Forget Myself, 2005)

Elbow rocks! This one was actually played in some livesets around the time of its release, and little wonder: the upbeat bounciness is a perfect fit for the live setting. A straight-up, honest rock song the likes of which are rarely seen in the Elbow catalogue.

THE DRUNKEN ENGINEER (Leaders of the Free World, 2005)

A simple two-minute ditty carried almost entirely by a gently picked acoustic guitar and Garvey’s warm voice. Sometimes stripping down to the very basics is good for the soul. Heartwarming and lovely.

HOTEL ISTANBUL (Grounds for Divorce, 2008)

A seven-minute rollercoaster that grandly swivels around with boldness and confidence. Features a particularly excellently punctuating horn section.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 17/10/2013 12:22

    Agree with all of those I know here, especially Hotel Istanbul, Strangeways To Holcombe Hill and Beat For Two – I love Inside I’m Dancing (aka Rory O’Shea Was Here, for Americans) and both the film and the song really deserve better. I loved Elbow’s cover of My Finger, too.

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