Album Review: Elbow – Little Fictions

The Manchester band fall in love on startlingly beautiful seventh album

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Elbow have been one of the most important bands in the UK for nearly 20 years now. The alternative rock group are famed for their use of orchestral elements as a focus point to their tracks, thus allowing the band members to layer their instruments on top. Previously, we have seen the band produce anthemic tracks, leading to them winning the Mercury Music Prize in 2008 for The Seldom Seek Kid. However, before plans for their seventh album were announced last year, drummer Richard Jupp announced he would be leaving the band. Little Fictions is the groups first album as a four piece and with lead singer Guy Garvey in a new relationship, it sees the band’s sound move towards romantic perfection.

First track Magnificent (She Says) spawns memories of being by the sea as a child. Written whilst Guy Garvey was on his honeymoon, the track sees Mark Potter’s frenetic guitar contrasting with the bass line to give a clockwork vibe. Garvey said the track was made to create an image of a little girl unabashed and unafraid. Lines “There on the sand / Throwing both her arms around the world / The world that doesn’t even know / How much it needs this little girl”, shows the potential that such innocence can have on the world as a whole but also looks towards the delight that having a child can bring to parents.

Gentle Storm, the best track on the record, is simplistic in its instrumentation. With just Spanish guitar, bass and a grand piano being played by the band, they manage to mix a samba drum beat to create a romantic slow dance masterpiece. A tone of romantic beauty is set within opening line “I will fly swift and true to you, like an arrow / Just to be where you lie”. Chorus line “Fall in love with me”, gets repeated in such a way, it seems almost desperate, with perhaps a hint at a lover’s argument and the subsequent attempt to solve it.

A gentle percussion beat leads the way on Trust the Sun, a track which is based on a bad breakup for Garvey when he was in the middle of a tour and sees the singer going to a bar in Chicago with the intention of getting completely drunk. The chorus lines “I just don’t trust the sun to rise / When I can’t see your eyes / You’re my reason for breathing” is Garvey at his lowest point on the album – a stark contrast against the loved up nature of the record and Garvey together.

All Disco was a track inspired by Pixies singer Black Francis whom Garvey interviewed for an American radio station ten years ago. Garvey said the meaning of the track is that no matter how different various things can be, at the end of the day they are all similar. Firebrand & Angel takes almost a jazzy twist within the band with it’s variety of percussion and additional layers that the band choose to add on which gives the end product one of a rhythmic yet melodic quality.

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K2 shows not everything can be romanticised. It’s a paranoid, half rapped song which was written around the time of Brexit. Garvey says he wanted to give the track the feeling of clinging to a cliff face but having loved ones there to support you through the journey. Lines “I’ll send you a postcard / See you in Hull / With a sweater made of Atacama llama wool“ were written as a part joke from Garvey who said that he would think of moving to Peru in a static caravan post-Brexit.

Montparnasse provides fragmented images, with the line “Therapy for liars is a giant ice cream” showing that we can try and seek help but it’s not effective unless you genuinely participate in helping yourself rather than letting someone else tell you what you want to hear.

Title track Little Fictions is an epic eight minute track similar to the newer, orchestral dominated tracks by Radiohead. The track is the longest song ever recorded by the band and touches on domestic bliss gone wrong. The second verse sees Garvey ignoring any argument that’s occurred and bringing himself back to reality with the lines “It’s nice to know how much you care / Decided I should spend my life with you”.

Closing track Kindling was the first track the band wrote after the departure of drummer Jupp. Lyrically, the song calls on Garvey’s start to his relationship with his wife and deals with the emotions on having to leave a partner to continue with day to day life. The track is intensely emotional from both the band as a whole and Garvey lyrically and is one of the finest tracks on an incredible album.

It’s amazing to see the journey that Elbow have gone through over the last fifteen or so years as a band and their stunning seventh album shows a more intimate side of the band than some of their earlier works. Despite the departure of drummer Richard Jupp, the album is a very beat heavy and colourful record that with it’s emotive and love stricken lyrics, stands out as one of the band’s finest works.

9/10

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