Build A Rocket Boys!
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/20/2011
Over the years, Elbow has progressively become a far less eccentric band than they used to be. Compared to the group’s dark and dingy debut Asleep In The Back and their follow-up, the claustrophobic Cast Of Thousands, the supervening efforts Leaders Of The Free World and The Seldom Seen Kid have been less dismal, if not consummately sanguine, as the band has moved towards a predominantly acoustic sound.
Build A Rocket Boys! lies in the folksy gamut of its immediate predecessor, The Seldom Seen Kid. But ironically, this stripped-down record is more complex than the group’s previous two ones. The meek hushedness of “Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl,” “Lippy Kids,” and “The River” aren’t heavy by any stretch of imagination, but have a kind of sheepish surrealism that is contemplative. The album closer “Dear Friends” is the only cut that continues in the bucolic trend of the recent Elbow records.
Soaring anthems are missing on this record of pauperistic proportions that holds onto everything and lets go of very little. Except for “The Birds,” which opens the album with flair, the rest of the record is subdued. The couple of other “rock” songs, “Neat Little Rows” and “High Ideals,” try to raise the level of clamor, but only by a little bit.
The presence of the The Hallé Youth Choir on most of the songs on Build A Rocket Boys! add an emancipating aural effect that makes all of the band’s other records seem pretty introversive. The soaring vocal climax on “Grace Under Pressure” (from Cast Of Thousands) replicated on “With Love” and “Open Arms” radiate warmth that melt the blues of the album’s slowness away without getting mawkishly jolly.
Even though Elbow’s records have all been unique in their own special ways, Build A Rocket Boys! is somewhat different. On one hand, it conforms to the lush rustic sound that the band has been leaning toward. On the other, it is the most naked of all records. In this minimalist ecosystem, Garvey and lads create a complex sound, which is more interesting and unconventional than what they have created in a long time.