Manchester musicians Elbow formed in 1997, certainly of the indie genre (they’ve been dropped by a record label countless times) always striving to stay true to their roots but capable of grand gestures through their music.
All You Need Is Love
Asleep In The Back (2001) was full of love songs powered by a deep, sometimes dark emotion. Powder Blue smothers you with a comforting beat that rumbles on, the lyrics are a love letter citing pride, blessings, regret, death, and ultimately closes with the sound of smashed glass. It’s beautiful:
The singles didn’t make huge waves in the charts but the promotion and successful tour ended with recognition in the form of a Mercury Music Prize nomination.
Their second effort Cast of Thousands (2003), was a more positive album. Uplifting, rousing, still carrying the important message of Love, “Grace Under Pressure” being the final single released with backing vocals recorded with a little help from the crowd at Glastonbury on the album’s closing the track:
We still believe in Love, so fuck you (repeat x3)
This sort of thing will forever be the message Elbow choose to deliver with their art.
Hitting The Big Time
Often well respected by their peers, Elbow in the mainstream were never in the spotlight and you were more likely to hear them as backing music for a topical lifestyle TV programme rather than featuring on said programme to promote their latest material. We’ll let Guy Garvey explain how much of a risk the much coveted, celebrated, and ultimately awarded The Seldom Seen Kid (2008) was in it’s making:
“We’ve been dropped a bunch of times… and the band has got kids… it was about “Can we actually keep going?” and in that kind of situation it’s so tempting to write a bunch of stuff that you know will sell rather than applying yourself to the record you want to make… I’m really proud”
Those words were spoken soon after picking up the winners’ award at the Mercury Music Prize as the general public finally sat up and took notice. Earlier in the night, this particular performance finds Garvey at his absolute best, his voice holds as he cries for somebody to look out for him; it’s desperation for the man who maybe feels like he is about to fall:
Send up a prayer in my name,
Say I’m on top of my game
If that doesn’t make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck then I don’t know what will.
Guy Garvey, the man of the people
The friendly giant Guy Garvey, such an imposing frame and yet such a soft sweet voice almost whispering sweet nothings with his love songs, he is truly a man of the people. A leading man for a talented bunch but he’s a music fan first and foremost, you’ll often get a review of a gig he’s been to the previous night and will champion his hand-picked support acts if you see Elbow play live. He has sat in as producer many a time for I Am Kloot, including their Mercury Music Prize nominated Sky At Night (2010):
He’s everyone’s mate, another example was his last-minute arrangement for Arctic Monkey’s backing orchestra for their Glastonbury headline set in 2013. He’s a patron for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and also has a very successful radio career with his own show on BBC 6 Music which is also a platform for his fantastic humour and wit; after breaking his foot on a winter tour in 2002 he claimed he had done so “kicking a tramp”.
Like all the success he and the band now have, most would say he deserved it.
They recently released the four-track EP, The Lost Worker Bee. True to their roots, it’s in reference to the Manchester bee and they sound just like they always have done. The band will continue to surprise and delight us in equal measure.
If you like this, find out some more about Manchester music majesty: we explore the success of the short-lived Oasis followup, Beady Eye.