The magnificent cinematic sound of elbow returns with the release of a new album – “Little Fictions”. To me, elbow are the Ken Loach of indie music – beautifully poignant vignettes of ordinary life in Britain, expressed with a weary narrative that celebrates the potential of individual kindness and wonder in a world of cynicism and indifference.
In “Little Fictions”, elbow seem to move away from documenting the seediness in life towards celebrating a deep and personal love.
The first single, “Magnificent (She Says)” expresses unadulterated love for a child – whose innocence, creativity, optimism and wonder envelopes the unknowing world. Guy Harvey’s lyrics are simply beautiful and evocative:
And there she stands
Throwing both her arms around the world
The world that doesn’t even know
How much it needs this little girl
“Gentle Storm” is another expression of personal love and eternal devotion “I found peace in your arms – gentle storms…fall in love with me…every day”.
Third track, “Trust the Sun”, opens with a long mesmeric intro and further illustrates the deep romanticism of the album – “I just don’t trust the sun to rise when I can’t see your eyes, you’re my reason for breathing”.
“All Disco” typifies elbow’s landscape music with layers of repeating melodies and ghostly choruses in the distance. Its themes are of the futility of differences – “what does it prove if you die for a tune, don’t you know it’s all disco”. Ultimate optimism delivered in a melancholic air.
The celebration of mundanity is again at the core of “Head for Supplies”: Harvey finds beauty in the tiny every day things in life over a soft sustained melody. The pace picks up in “Firebrand & Angel” and the tone is darker – Harvey seems to lament time being spent away from home and the fear of being forgotten. “K2” is the older more cynical elbow – moving to the dangers of isolationism and ego politics represented by Brexit. And yet the redemptive power of love seems to give hope:
I’m from a land with an island status
Makes us think that everyone hates us
Maybe darling they do
But they haven’t met you
They only know the villains at the tiller
And they gambled the farm on a headline
This redemptive love again forms the core of “Montparnasse”: “Your heart could easy power three of me, should my love get lost in the delivery”. “Little Fictions” is another expression of a deep and eternal love – that kind that exists outside of the ‘little fictions’ created to protect ourselves from memories of the past:
We protect our little fictions
When we bow to fear
Little wilderness mementos
But there’s only you and me here
Waiting for the original miracle
It’s an eight minute opus of delicate yearning and is a tremendously powerful and beautiful theme that can only come from some kind of personal epiphany. In fact I understand Harvey was recently married which illustrates that “Little Fictions”, as an album, is deeply personal tribute.
The album ends on “Kindling” – the love that Harvey’s lover brings to his cold and miserable existence: a mere phone call from her turning a bleak train trip into an explosion of gold.
This is really a magnificent album – personal, intense and incredibly poetic. And did I mention romantic?
The video for the single captures the celebration of innocence and joy of children, seemingly contrasted with the rigorous of piety and devotion:
elbow are on tour from February through to August in Europe but many gigs are already sold out. Details can be found here.