Gary Flockhart: Elbow are not so bad after all

Guy Garvey, lead singer of Elbow. Pic: Jane Barlow
Guy Garvey, lead singer of Elbow. Pic: Jane Barlow
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WHAT do you make of Elbow? A brilliant band deserving of the sky-high praise the music press has afforded them throughout their 20-odd year career? Or are Manchester’s arch-miserablists boring, second-rate and emotionless?

After they won the Mercury Music Prize in 2008 for The Seldom Seen Kid, I wrote a column in this spot bemoaning the crime of that self-important award not going to either The Last Shadow Puppets (whom I thought were shoo-ins to win) or Radiohead instead.

‘Every time I hear Elbow,’ went the column, ‘I get depressed that people actually credit them with anything other than ripping off the worst bits of Radiohead and mixing it in with a bit of Embrace’.

So there I was, the other day, pen poised for a review of the band’s newbie, convinced that it would send me into a deep sleep, the only question being how soon into the album.

Turns out, I’ve been a tad harsh on Elbow. Not only is sixth album The Take Off And Landing Of Everything pretty damn good, but, having returned to some of their older stuff for a listen, the back catalogue isn’t so bad either.

At this point, I should say I wasn’t entirely wrong about Elbow. Some of their songs are indeed dull as dishwater – but I now find myself liking many of them.

I guess that’s because the majority are slow-burning, and I’d never really given them enough time to grow on me.

It should be noted that I’m not alone in being late to the party as far as Elbow is concerned – the record-buying public were blind to their talents for years, too.

Constantly referred to as the ‘perennial bridesmaid’ of indie-rock, Elbow were critically acclaimed but commercially 
ignored right up until they made the leap from also-rans to mega-selling, 
magazine-fronting, arena-packing superstars with The Seldom Seen Kid.

The band have always been spoken of in the music press as ones who write proper grown-up songs – so perhaps now I’m a little older I appreciate their music that little bit more.

Or maybe a mid-life crisis is in the post?