Elbow - Dead in the boot - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Elbow - Dead in the boot

by James Bray Rating:8.5 Release Date:2012-08-27

The fact that Elbow can now release a collection of b-sides and obcure non-album tracks which will actually sell is an impressive feat in itself. In fact, this kind of collection of odd songs is a good idea for a prolific band which had many stalled starts. After initially signing a deal in 1998, Elbow changed record companies on a number of occassions before eventually releasing Asleep in the Back in 2001. This record was an impressive debut but, despite critical acclaim, it weighed the fledgling band down with it's overwrought melancholy. Elbow then went on to release two superior albums A Cast of Thousand and Leaders of the Free World before achieving big commercial success with The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008, 10 years after being signed by Island Records.

Dead in the Boot is an ironic nod to moody, reclusive debut record Asleep in the Back, showing that Elbow really came into their own when they dropped any self-regarding mopiness and established their own style. Compared to the blockbuster success of The Seldom Seen Kid, this collection is a like an independent British film. The music goes from the bootleg above a pub of 'McGreggor' to the wide-screen cinematics of 'Love Blown Down' and it all perfectly suits Garvey's remarkable lyrics and well-hewn vocals.
When Elbow started out they went for a homely, acoustic version of 90s era prog-rock. To that extent, Dead in the Boot is reminiscent of Radiohead's Ok Computer-era b-sides. 'Lucky with Disease' and 'Love Blown Down' are very similar in atmosphere to the b-side of 'Paranoid Android', 'A Reminder', except that instead of the songs being about alienation and falling asleep in international airports, they're about dreamy train journeys in the north. In spite of its prog tendencies, this record takes Elbow back to their roots and is evocative of other Manchester bands; the songs have the kind of bittersweet euphoria you associate with Doves, The Smiths and Badly Drawn Boy.
What makes this collection really stand up on its own is that Elbow is band which has always put songwriting first; they've spent years working at it, and it really shows. At this point in their career they have a huge back-catalogue of material for fans and newcomers to delve into and travel far in. Elbow are undoubtedly one of the best bands the UK has produced in the last 25 years; it just took a while for everyone to catch on. They are now rich and successful and have been embraced by the British establishment (the group wrote the BBC's theme to the 2012 Olympics) so they don't need anymore help. However, this collection is still a welcome reminder of just how good they always have been.

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