Build a Rocket Boys!
Eighteen years spent chipping away at the nation’s heart with their unswerving optimism finally paid dividends for Elbow with their fourth album The Seldom Seen Kid – sales shot skyward like one of their choruses and their cabinets filled with awards. Few successes have been quite as deserved as theirs and, frankly, we wouldn’t have begrudged them consolidating all this by pitching up middle of the road for a bit. They have called in the local Halle Youth Choir for this fifth effort, but this is Elbow. They’ve got too much wit, too much soul and had too many barroom epiphanies to consider tossing out mortgage-rock. As vocalist Guy Garvey said recently, this is the first time Elbow have made an album knowing it will definitely see the light of day. Success has taken the pressure off.
It sounds like it too. The Seldom Seen Kid saw them reaching desperately for the stars, but here they luxuriate. There’s no bluster, just clear, spartan songs that get their blue sky thinking across without any pat, euphoric pay-offs. Garvey is sometimes alone here with just starry keys; the clutch of ‘With Love’ gets stronger as each loop brings another handclap, bleep and bank of voices; and ‘High Ideals’ builds from a droning squeezebox and is a folksong writ as shaggy-dog Mancunian pop.
Build a Rocket Boys! is an extraordinarily hopeful album, imbued with all the empathy we’ve come to expect from Elbow but coloured, too, by recent success. On ‘Lippy Kids’, Garvey sings about perfecting that ‘simian stroll’ before lighting up: ‘you know those days are golden, build a rocket boys, build a rocket boys!’ Now that’s aspiration for you.