Wednesday, November 12, 2008

ELBOW


"Elbow" is the name of a group I've just discovered and in whose music I have been completely immersed all morning. I'm devoting today's post to them. I'm blown away. (And no, they're not gay.)

I'm one of those who used to say with pride, "I never watch TV." But that was before the miracle of the DVR and the explosion of choice that cable affords. The Sundance movie festival has a channel called, appropriately enough, the Sundance Channel. In addition to showing their indy films, they also feature shows they produce for the channel, among them one called Live From Abbey Road. If you like learning about good new music, this show is, in a word, spectacular. It brings the cream of the crop of contemporary musicians into the legendary recording studio and gives them a showcase for their best music, all the while filming their performances, documentary style. They generally feature three artisits/groups per episode, each doing two or three songs. There are interviews with all of the performers that dig deep into what their visions are and what they are trying to say. You see great musicians working at the top of their form in the best possible surroundings. I've watched, among too many others to list, Joan Armatrading, Teddy Thompson, and Martha Wainwright. I'm suddenly a fan of Mary J. Blige, convinced she's the real deal, having seen the passion she puts into her performances. And I've learned about people I've never heard of before, like this group, Elbow.

These guys from Manchester, England, named their group after a line in the BBC show "The Singing Detective." A character says that "elbow" is the most sensuous word to speak in the English language, not for its meaning, but for how it feels to say it. And that's their starting point. Since I'm not a great connoiseur of all new music, I have no extensive context within which to place the group, except to lump them loosely with Coldplay and The Trash Can Sinatras. I found the Sinatras much more interesting musically than Coldplay (though not consistent), and now I find Elbow consistently better and more compelling than either of them.

They're young men who have been performing together for 18 years; their cohesion and understanding of each other is evident. I'm a sucker for big (not to say triumphant) music that is melodically sophisticated and creatively orchestrated, and Elbow fills all those bills. What this band can do with the usual instruments of a rock ensemble is something to behold.

One appeal is lead singer Guy Garvey's voice. It echos Gary Brooker of Procol Harum but is more in tune and a bit more refined, though not much. The music itself is as interesting as the Harum's, too, but the production is much more polished, less scruffy. You may or may not like that....

I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

10 comments:

Jeff said...

Sent these straight to the iPod, Ralph.
As far as "elbow" being the most sensuous word, I prefer "scapula" myself... :)
- J.

Ralph said...

Me, I got for "cellar door," Jeff. So glad you like the music. You're a word guy. I hope you'll dig into this group deeper. Their lyrics are amazing.

Eclecticity said...

Dig 'em Ralph. Thanks! I'm not sure if I've got the Sundance channel or not, but that Abbey Road show sounds wonderful. E.

Ralph said...

If not on TV, might be on Netflix, E.

Cuidado said...

Reminiscent of The moody Blues.

Ralph said...

Hadn't seen the resemblance, Cuidado, but now that you mention it I do. I like these guys better though--maybe it's just the more modern production, bigger sound that gets to me....

Nan said...

Wow- I LOVE what I am hearing! (And I noticed you have your player set up now so that I can listen while I leave a comment, and the comment box no longer shuts off the player! Hurray!) I am definitely going to look up Elbow to hear more. Does anyone else here Peter Gabriel in this voice? I really heard it in Station Approach - old Genesis with Peter Gabriel. That is a high compliment I think. Thanks for sharing this!

Ralph said...

Good stuff, huh, Nan? Funny how that guy's voice reminds folks of other people. Now that you mention it yes, I do hear a bit of Peter Gabriel.

I haven't been able to figure ut who does the composing, especially the brilliant lyrics. Will have to explore their site more.

Peewit said...

Elbow won the Mercury prize over here for the best album of 2008
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7606963.stm
the worrying thing is generally whomever wins the Mercury are never heard of again!

Guy Garvey now hosts a weekly show on one of our national digital radio channels (BBC 6 Music) if you can get it via your computer its worth a listen as he plays an eclectic mix of different styles

Ralph said...

Peewit, as far as I'm cincerned they deserve the Mercury and more. I'd love to see that show and will check it out. Thanks for the heads up.