Abbey104 Album of the Month: Audio Vertigo by Elbow

Date:

Polydor records

Matthew Ambrose, DJ at Abbey104

Almost a quarter of a century on from the release of their debut album, Asleep In The Back, Manchester alternative rock quintet Elbow could be described as elder statesmen, with lead singer Guy Garvey quietly going about achieving national treasure status.
Recent releases, however, have suffered from stubbornly mid-to-low tempo drudgery. While their song writing has occasionally still hit the mark (I’m thinking of Empires and Six Words), it feels like a very long time indeed since the band produced the kind of universally celebratory music which brought them to mass acclaim on 2008’s breakthrough album The Seldom Seen Kid, and the follow-up, 2011’s Build A Rocket Boys! But from the opening bars of the first track on Audio Vertigo, their 10th LP, it’s clear that the slump is over.

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The album announces itself with an infectious groove before guitar stabs perforate a melody reminiscent of Alex Turner’s more recent work. On Lovers’ Leap, the melancholy lyric (“Take me up to lovers’ leap, throw my body off the side”) is instead imbued with menace, horns filling the space where strings may previously have been.
But the centrepiece of the album, Balu, is where the band’s new-found energy is best showcased (video below).
As Guy Garvey sings of trysts with rust belt girls and hollowing skulls for his wine, multiple synth lines shimmer and intertwine before releasing into a horn part which echoes the two-note motif of Radiohead’s The National Anthem.
Many Elbow touchstones remain, including the crystal-clear production, impeccable arrangements and lyrics which manage to be both beautifully poetic and keenly descriptive. But this is a band with more to say, and who are clearly ready to flex their musical muscles once more. While they may conceivably have faded into obscurity with this release, they have instead cemented their place as the best British rock band of the last 25 years.

Matthew Ambrose presents Under The Radar on Tuesday evening at 7pm on Abbey104. Broadcasting on 104.7FM and online at abbey104.com.

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