Tuesday, April 16, 2024

‘Audio Vertigo’: gnarly, naughty and their best since ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’

Phwoar – now there’s a word you never thought you’d see aimed at Elbow again, eh? Such a comforting and regular presence have the Manchester everymen become over the last 17 years since their triumphant Mercury Prize win for the monolithic ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, that to think of them conjures up images of Sunday roasts and Olympic victory montages. Alas, that ‘One Day Like This’ effect may have overwritten the public perception of the band’s more experimental nature.

From the trip-hoppy delights of debut ‘Asleep In The Back’, the weirdly wonderful art-rock of follow-up ‘Cast Of Thousands’, the proto-arena widescreen ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ and all of their many curious flourishes since, Elbow have never actually been the milquetoast ‘band you can introduce to your nan’. Now 10th album ‘Audio Vertigo’ is here to drop some spice on your pie and mash.

Earlier this year, frontman Guy Garvey warned us of an “inky” and “groove-based” record, leaning on their more alternative influences of punk and new wave, of Stiff Records and Afrika Bambaataa. Opener ‘Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years’ is a fitting taster of that palette: skittering and unpredictable, epic yet a little bit naughty. Then lead single ‘Lover’s Leap’ is horny – horny, horny, horny. A meandering bassline leads us into a rhythmic and boisterous ode to love and abandon; the graffiti on the park bench.

“Cool, really cool,” beams Garvey over an interlude glimpse of them stretching themselves in the studio, before he calls on his band to “give it fat wide wheels”. They oblige on the gnarly ‘Balu’ – where synths meet horns and a whole lot of attitude, like a marching band en route to hell as the frontman idiosyncratically paints a raunchy review: “You were the B of the bang of the binge / Til I split for a tryst with a rust belt girl with a Plantagenet fringe.”

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