Asleep In The Back


V2, 2002

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Elbow is every closet Coldplay fan’s dream come true. Like Coldplay, Elbow has an ear for irresistible pop melodies, but the colossal difference is that Elbow also has the eccentricity to make the music unique and interesting enough to give it personality. Asleep In The Back, the band’s debut, is an absolutely phenomenal record, and even though some of the songs can be instantly appealing, the music is mostly weird and challenges the patience of the listener before revealing its true magnificence.

The music on Asleep is layered and exquisitely produced. It is often ambient, with a trip-hop-like, psychedelic quality to it. But interestingly, one can hardly sense keyboards in the denseness of the music and there is certain chasteness to the fact that all the amazingly beautiful sounds are made organically. For example, there is a certain danciness to “Any Day Now” and more so to “Little Beast” and “Coming Second” with their dub-like bass and drum arrangements, and an ambience rivaling any track off of Radiohead’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Kid A; but in this case, the sounds are made by purely musical instruments, not by funky computer tricks.

Elbow’s Coldplay connection comes mainly from singer Guy Garvey’s vocals, more so than the two bands’ common affinity for sweetness in their music. When Garvey sings certain notes, he can be easily mistaken for Chris Martin. He can melt hearts with his charming, romantic vocals on tracks like the masterpiece “New Born.” However, Garvey’s head is way too engrossed in listening to its deliriums and failing attempts to make peace with their manifestations to be a “Chris Martin” for the whole length of an album. 

On most of Asleep, even though Garvey’s vocals are smooth and dreamy, his soul is battling nightmares, which shows with full vigor in his singing, be it his cynical tone on “Don’t Mix Your Drinks,” his voice of pain on “Powder Blue” or his tranquility on “Scattered Black And Whites.”

And Garvey’s fractured soul gets full encouragement to brandish its restless self from the music he writes and the musicians that play in his band. Despite its pleasantness, the music is arduously slow-paced and takes a toll on the listener’s patience with long songs that lack any kind of upbeat tempo. Even the prettiest of tunes like “Red” and “Asleep In The Back” have a pensive edge. 

As is the case with most great eccentric bands, Elbow is found guilty of sometimes going overboard with its songs, like the unnecessary lengthening of “New Born” with the unwanted change of tune, which seems merely in the interest of showing off eccentricity than adding a different dimension to the song. Similar – but to a lesser extent – is the case with the otherwise brilliantly exhilarating “Bitten By The Tailfly,” on which the crescendo at the end is way too prolonged.

But without Elbow’s tendency to be off-kilter and unpredictable (even when not required), this album wouldn’t have been the masterpiece it is. Elbow’s one-of-a-kind blend of goth tinged Brit-folk and neo-prog is a surrealistic experience for those who seek beauty and solace in melancholy, much like Garvey and his crew.  

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of V2, and is used for informational purposes only.