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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!

Sometimes great music is all about balance. Balance between the bombast and the economy; balance between the otherworldly and the rational; balance between the inventive and the mechanical.

Rarely does an artist find that balance on one entire album, as Elbow does on this, their fifth effort. Guy Harvey's lyrics are simultaneously esoteric and earthly, as in when he opens the album with: "The birds... are the keepers of our secrets."

An album's worth of motive-driven poetic phrasings follow, layered over steady rhythmic percussion sections. Almost all the songs contrast stark and minimal with layered and sweeping  – "With Love" is barely a kick-and-handclaps rhythm and hammered motive before it evolves into backing chorus of several voices simply emphasising the words "with love".

VIDEO: Elbow - "Lippy Kids"

Such as it is, the music of Rocket skips deftly along the divide between misery and joy, and sometimes it even achieves both emotions in the same music or lyrical phrase. "We got open arms for broken hearts" they sing, perhaps not ironically describing Elbow as a musical entity in its own words.

There's true love put into these songs... they effectively reveal the mechanics... the mathematics, if you will... of music to be incredibly liquid and affecting in their proper application. Build a Rocket Boys! is Elbow's best album to date, and that's no throwaway feat, given the calibre of the work preceding.

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