Elbow Leaders of the Free World

Elbow Leaders of the Free World
This band have always straddled a fine line between being a paradox of depressive bliss and being just plain whiny. More specifically, for every "Powder Blue” there is a "Snooks (Progress Report).” Thus, the overall underwhelming Cast of Thousands meant this newest release was met with a wary eye, at best. How wonderful it is to be wrong. Sure, songs like "Picky Bugger” meet the usual pattern of going nowhere fast, but with such strong, confident brush strokes found in opener "Station Approach” and the nasty "Mexican Standoff,” all is almost forgiven. With the latter, it is a welcome burst of energy, and the raw guitars match the primal emotion of lead singer Guy Garvey’s proclamation of "He’d look ideal ’neath the wheels of a car.” As for "Station Approach,” this is the best showcase of Garvey’s voice since the aforementioned Asleep in the Back song, and the slow, hypnotic rise put the music and emotion squarely on the same page, begging for repeated spins. Unfortunately, the horrible earnestness of the title track mars the overall effort, but, really, as Garvey forcefully pines "Be everything to me tonight,” you have to agree. Welcome back, you loveable losers. (V2)