Album: Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys! (Fiction)

4.00

In the three years since The Seldom Seen Kid hoisted the band into the first rank of arena-rock dependables, Elbow have had plenty of time to think. In singer Guy Garvey's case, a move back to the neighbourhood in which he spent his youth has prompted some fond musings over his own childhood and teenage years, the endless hours spent chipping away at creating his own character, the development of a personal cultural map, and the late nights plotting and planning to make the group's pipe dreams a reality.

The album title comes from a line in "Lippy Kids", where Garvey's glimpse of a younger generation of teenagers trying to perfect "the simian stroll" prompts recollection of his own attempts at "kerbstone cool", the memory set in humming choral aspic and methodical piano chords. "Do they know those days are golden?" he wonders. "Build a rocket, boys!" The air of exultant expectation recollected in tranquility pervades the entire album, with Garvey confiding memories and misgivings to the natural world in "The River" and "The Birds", the latter appointed "the keepers of our secrets", while the former ultimately washes them out to the west-facing sea.

In "The Birds", an old man looks back on the closing stages of a failed love affair from years before, with piano tuner John Mosley hired to provide the frail but moving vocal on the brief reprise later in the album. The song opens proceedings with the album's longest and most elaborate arrangement, its ticking slide-guitar riff suddenly replaced by a funky, staccato keyboard groove three minutes in. The rest of Build a Rocket Boys! seems to hover gently, as if suspended in the mist of memory, built around Craig Potter's static, almost minimalist keyboards, with repetitive monotone piano parts swathed in soothing organ ("The Night Will Always Win") or undulating harmonium ("Open Arms"), propelled forward by rolling tom-toms.

Strings and horns add sparing lustre to "High Ideals", and the Hallé Youth Choir lends humming reverie to several tracks, while at the other extreme, "Jesus Is a Rochdale Girl" is borne along by gentle acoustic guitar and furtive sprays of electric piano. The first song completed for the album, it finds Garvey gazing from a window at a familiar urban vista, recalling the youthful potential of his younger self at a time when he had "Nothing to be proud of, and nothing to regret, all of that to make as yet... a thousand boxes yet to tick". Elsewhere are mentions of "noble dreams and gentle expectations", while virtually every song seems haunted by the notion of fellowship and absent friends – not least the singer's childhood self, whose spiritual residue is addressed directly in "Open Arms", in lines which summarise the album as a whole: "The man you are will know the boy you were – and you're not The Man Who Fell to Earth, you're the Man of La Mancha."



DOWNLOAD THIS: The Birds; Lippy Kids; Open Arms; Jesus Is a Rochdale Girl

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there