Should we welcome Elbow’s default setting with open arms on album number six?
Guy Garvey – Elbow singer and lyricist – recently celebrated his 40th Birthday and this sixth album from the Bury quintet is informed by those feelings and emotions that hit when you approach middle-age. Garvey, of course, is no stranger to world-weary storytelling, but both musically and lyrically The Take Off And Landing Of Everything – from that title down – positions Elbow in what feels like an effortlessly downbeat, melancholic place. Their default setting, if you will.
It’s largely shorn of the anthemic, sing-along moments found on their last two albums (The Seldom Seen Kid and Build A Rocket Boys!). The closest to a One Day Like This is the opening single New York Morning. A chugging beat and tasteful organ line build into a swelling chorus, but if anything it feels a bit restrained, as if they’ve deliberately pulled back from that communal arms-in-the-air moment.
Lyrically, Garvey deals with the aforementioned ageing process in his usual sentimental way. On album highpoint My Sad Captains he’s talking to drinking buddies and friends who have passed away. “Another sunrise with my sad captains/With who I choose to lose my mind/ And if it’s so we only pass this way but once/What a perfect waste of time”. It’s a beautiful song that brings to mind those warm cuddly Hovis ads from the 70s.
Fly Boy Blue/Lunette is a clever two songs for the price of one prog odyssey that feels like Elbow doing their version of Radiohead. A rhythmic sway, stabs of guitar and a thunderous saxophone give way to a gentle strum about whether one should quit the fags. “Perverse as it may sound I sometimes believe/The tip to my lips just reminds me to breathe”.
In the main though, The Take Off… feels like Elbow by numbers, too many songs pass by without note, despite their mostly long running times. It’s certainly not a bad record, Elbow don’t really do that, but too often it steers away from the sonic thrills and off-beat rhythms of their early records while consciously stripping out those massive crowd-pleasers found on their recent work. Solid and safe then, but for album seven could we have a little more derring-do?