Elbow: Audio Vertigo - Guy Garvey and co’s best album in years

The Manchester band have discovered the sense of experimentation that informed their early material

Audio Vertigo
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Artist: Elbow
Genre: Rock
Label: Polydor

From scrappy beginnings, they flourished as arena titans – although it’s been 16 years since The Seldom Seen Kid nudged Elbow’s career towards international stardom. Audio Vertigo, the Manchester band’s 10th studio album, arrives more than two decades after their debut, Asleep in the Back. It follows the underwhelming Flying Dream 1, from 2021, which was written separately during the throes of the pandemic.

If nothing else, that record confirmed that Guy Garvey and his bandmates are clearly a stronger, more fluent force when they are writing together – a feeling verified by Audio Vertigo.

This is a record where you can hear both the draw towards and resistance to those big arena shows, an enjoyable tussle between offbeat, weird indie tunes and anthemic, beefy war cries.

Songs such as the tremendous, glittering thunder of Balu and the meaty rock wig-out of Good Blood Mexico City are primed for those big festival shows as the sun is going down, but Garvey remains a soulful poet for the everyman with his clever, provocative lyrics on the ruminative From the River or the album’s strident, glimmering opening track, Things I’ve Been Telling Myself for Years (“I’m the dashboard hooligan of nodding self-deception”). There are few lighters-aloft moments here but plenty of forward momentum and some complex musical layers to unravel.


It sounds as if Elbow have rediscovered the sense of experimentation that informed their early material, as heard on the frantic zig-zag buzz of The Picture and the ominous Her to the Earth, with its quirky synth throb subtly recalling 1980s bands such as Talk Talk or Scritti Politti. Knife Fight (“I woke up thinking about the knife fight / I saw it in Istanbul / The fellas left together laughing and bleeding”) has a 1970s MOR wistfulness that provides a moment of pause amid the sense of breathless excitement that has been missing from the band’s work for a while. This is undoubtedly a rock album, but Elbow are trying their damnedest to make it interesting, both for themselves and for their listeners. It has paid off.

This is their best album in years, the sound of a band not just surviving but creatively thriving.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times