Elbow

Elbow's Official Website!

By Patrick Gosnell

WHEN: 1997-present

CULPRITS: Guy Garvey (vocals), Mark Potter (guitar), Craig Potter (keyboards), Pete Turner (bass), Richard Jupp (drums)

ALBUMS: The Noisebox EP (1998); The Newborn EP (2000); The Any Day Now EP (2001); Asleep in the Back (2001); Cast of Thousands (2003); Leaders of the Free World (2005); The Seldom Seen Kid (2008); iTunes Live from London EP (2008)

HOW: I discovered Elbow during a trip to Boston’s Tower Records (R.I.P.) in the summer of 2002.  It’s one of my favorite ways to spend time – browsing through endless albums and listening to samples from every musical kiosk in a local record store.  (Of course, I switch to “indie-hipster-mode” and pretend to be Lucas from Empire Records, Barry from High Fidelity, or even Rob Sheffield from his glorious memoir, Love Is a Mix Tape, as I wade through the sea of aged vinyl and sweaty headphones!)  I always stay until I manage to find something new, something I haven’t heard before.  On this occasion it was Elbow’s debut album, Asleep in the Back.  Guy Garvey’s emotional lyrics and the band’s warm instrumental swaths still conjure up memories of walking down Newbury, my Discman blaring.

WHY: I was in search of a Brit-rock band to love; one not as exceedingly popular (though deservedly so) as Radiohead, and one certainly lacking the acrid aroma of Coldplay’s commercialism.  Elbow became my Brit-band-of-choice apropos of their ability to craft drowsy, melancholic ballads and pugnacious rock numbers while flying just below the mainstream radar.  Their promised potential is always fulfilled with each new release, and while their song structure (at times) dabbles in prog-rock’s left-turns and layers, Elbow consistently commits to the Tao of listen-ability.

SONGS: The mix begins with “Grounds For Divorce” simply because it is the song people are most likely to have heard.  Elbow is not widely known in the States, and I wanted to give people a chance to say, “Oh yeah, I heard that in Burn After Reading.  Now, what else have they done?”  The next two songs, “Powder Blue” and “Snooks (Progress Report)” showcase Elbow’s ability to surprise the listener.  (I won’t tell you how — just turn the volume up and wait for it!)  Another important part of Elbow’s music is their percussive sensibility, as demonstrated on “Buttons and Zips,” “Forget Myself,” and “Weather To Fly“.  An odd little number, “The Fix,” highlights Garvey’s haunting baritone, and leads into the album’s centerpiece, the beautiful and ever-expanding “Newborn.”  “Mexican Standoff” kicks off the second half of the mix with a bang, but it quickly cools down with a trio of what I call “Elbow’s lullaby songs.”  “Alseep In The Back” and “Switching Off” portray the tender side of the band, and their cover of U2‘s “Running To Stand Still” is from the War Child – Heroes, Vol. 1 compilation.  The last quarter of the mix emphasizes Elbow’s flair for the theatrical, and contains my all-time favorite song by the Manchester group, “Scattered Black and Whites.”

Songs that did not make the mix due to time but deserve a listen as well include: “Red,” “Don’t Mix Your Drinks,” “Fugitive Motel,” “Great Expectations,” “The Everthere,” “Not a Job,” and “Fallen Angel.”

SIDENOTES: Yes, it is true that I still used a Discman in 2002.  Even though I am (and was) a music-snob, I didn’t buy my first iPod until ’03 when the 3rd generation was released.  Also, in researching material for this post, I felt that I could not end it without a couple more hilarious clips from High Fidelity: Monday Tape, Get Your Patchouli Stink Outta My Store, Beta Band.

LINK: Click on the list below to see the 80MFL iMix, where you can listen to samples, download what sounds good, or get the whole thing!

Click on the list for our ELBOW iMIX

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~ by Patrick Gosnell on August 27, 2009.

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