Up, up and away with Guy Garvey
Elbow’s latest album, `The Take Off and Landing of Everything', sweeps and soars in all the right places. At the band’s Blueprint studios in Salford, Guy Garvey muses on the ups and downs of a band that refuses to remain earthbound
There was a time when Elbow were one of an anonymous bunch of UK bands that flittered around the limelight like moths only to disappear once the switch was dimmed. There was a time when Elbow were viewed as the kind of band that was difficult to pin down because there seemed to be very little remotely exciting about them. There was a time when Elbow were damned with faint praise, and cursed by a commercial timidity that witnessed none of their singles crashing into the UK top 10. And there was a time when Elbow were the band that Coldplay’s Chris Martin once admitted to borrowing from for his band’s own attempts at world domination.
Not now, though. Indeed, not for almost 10 years. Between 2005’s Leaders of the Free World , 2008’s Seldom Seen Kid and 2011’s Build a Rocket Boys! , the band from a small English town called Ramsbottom, near Bury, has become the opposite to anonymous: winners of the Mercury Music Prize in 2008 (for Seldom Seen Kid ), a Brit Award (Best British Group) in 2009, and – as part of, perhaps, of a scenario that they never could have foreseen – critics and crowd favourites for the kind of live shows that effortlessly blend waves of emotion and surges of chorus- singing.
It is far from waves and surges that The Ticket finds itself. We are in Salford, at Elbow’s very own rehearsal and recording studios, Blueprint. Here, amid stacks of guitars and recording equipment, books (including Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Volume One ), we listen to the band’s forthcoming album, The Take Off and Landing of Everything , before repairing to the band’s local pub, a minute’s stroll from Blueprint, to talk to Guy Garvey.
Their first studio album in three years, The Take Off and Landing of Everything is all you hoped it would be – a record for people who hold the old-fashioned notion of an album being an album and not just a collection of random songs close to their hearts. It sweeps and soars in all the right places, it documents travails, troubles, trials and triumphs. So it’s a, er, journey, then?
Garvey, a bearded, hefty figure in a souwester that doesn’t really look as if it has seen a lick of salt on either high or low seas, takes a sip of his pint, looks at me sideways and considers whether or not I’m being facetious. (Which, as it happens, I’m not.)
“The easiest way to describe the new album,” he says, mulling over what’s to come next like an auld fella puffing on a pipe, “is how it differs from the previous one. When we were working on Build a Rocket Boys! we very clearly wanted to deliver something that was sparse and reflective.
“We also wanted make a record that the fans would appreciate – not to necessarily build on the success of Rocket Boys . It was almost like we wanted to get one off the blocks very quickly so we could reassure people that we’re still about the music first and the success after.”
There was, says Garvey, a conscious effort to involve the group this time, and also to integrate something that he has long had a bee in his bonnet about: tempo change. He is right when he points out that the idea of slowing music down and speeding it up has been lost, dynamically at very least, because of the way it’s recorded.