What Do You Do With a Problem Like Elbow?


Elbow has yet to make it big in Jap. . . the United States.  I’m not sure why.  Their sensibilities should be perfect for a variety of radio formats here.  But, sadly, Elbow remains generally unknown.  I first came across them because Greg Spawton of Big Big Train recommended Elbow as well as Mew as two of his favorite bands.

Then, of course, Peter Gabriel produced a stunning version of the band’s “Mirrorball.”

Since 2009, I’ve ordered the bands complete catalogue, much to my own personal happiness.  For whatever reasons (and I’m sure there are several, but they remain unexamined; Socrates would not approve), my favorite albums from the band are THE SELDOM SEEN KID and BUILD A ROCKET BOYS!

What’s not to love?  Clever and tasteful pop with some incredibly intricate vocal melodies and often unusual use of traditional rock instruments.  And, ALWAYS, the band performs as if this is the most important thing in the world.  Which, at each moment, is true.

And, this leads me to my questions, stolen from a musical about would-be Austrian nuns who marry into crazily large Catholic families and dance on mountain tops while thumbing their collective nose at the Nazis.  What do we do with a problem like Elbow?

Granted, I have no answer.

I’m sure many lot us eagerly awaited the arrival of the latest album, LITTLE FICTIONS.  But, it’s here, and I’m not sure what do with it.  Yes, the trademark Elbow sound is there–still clever, still sensible, still intricate, and still very much. . . well, Elbow.  But, what’s up with disco beat?  Much more than a 70s disco sound, though, it has the sound of disco mixed with New Wave, as in the music of Erasure or Bronski Beat.

I’ll keep listening and trying to learn. . . but I remain skeptical.


6 thoughts on “What Do You Do With a Problem Like Elbow?

  1. I’ve been an Elbow fan since Cast of Thousands. I read a review in MOJO (or maybe it was Q), was intrigued by the review, and went to Best Buy in Cary, North Carolina and bought CoT. I quickly became a fan, but the fandom waned (Elbow sort of fell off the radar because of visibility — or rather, the lack of it), and then it reignited when I found The Seldom Seen Kid at a different Best Buy a few years later quite by accident, and that fandom has stayed ignited ever since.

    Elbow seems to be entirely happy with being a “cult band” in the United States. They play stadiums and festivals in Europe, and 800 seat venues in the US. (I already have my ticket to see them in DC in November.) The number of times I’ve heard an Elbow song on the radio could be counted on a single hand.

    I love Little Fictions, even though I’d put it down in the bottom half of Elbow’s albums. Yet, even being in the bottom half it’s still a very good piece of work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. carleolson

    I’ve listened to it a couple of times, and I’ve enjoyed it; it’s very well-crafted (as always) and with beautiful, melancholy moments. I have everything by Elbow, but I’ve always found that there is a sort of detached, even cool, quality to their music. It’s hard to pinpoint.

    Liked by 1 person


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