Album Reviews

Album Review: Elbow – Asleep In The Back (Deluxe Edition) (Universal)

By | Published on Tuesday 13 October 2009


If you don’t already own Elbow’s impressive decade-old debut album, this re-release presents a good opportunity to discover it. If you already have it, however, the extra material on the (sadly dispensable) bonus discs comprise nothing to make this an essential purchase: the second CD’s live and session tracks might be interesting curios for fans (which also goes for the bonus DVD), but are ultimately redundant. What is still worth exploring though, is the original music.

Like Coldplay, keyboards form a key part of Elbow’s sound but, unlike Chris Martin’s group, there’s no concession to stadium-friendly anthems here (which probably partly explains the differing success levels the two groups have experienced); the mood is solemn, downbeat, occasionally angry, even; there’s a general air of bitterness and resignation in Guy Garvey’s vocals and lyrics, whilst the morose trip hop moodiness of ‘Any Day Now’ and ‘Little Beast’ puts them closer to Massive Attack than to indie contemporaries like Snow Patrol. The abrasive guitar of ‘Bitten By The Tail Fly’ meanwhile recalls fellow Mancunian miserablists Joy Division (‘She’s Lost Control’), whilst there’s something of latter-day Radiohead in the sinister sombreness of ‘Coming Second’.

What does stand out more than any of that though is a songwriting guile and way with mood that has been subtly refined over subsequent albums. As re-releases go this is a slightly pointless one; an obvious attempt to milk a cash cow in light of last year’s Mercury success. But it still feels good to bathe in this luxurious melancholy again. MS

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