It’s all change for Elbow with the release of their seventh album Little Fictions. Not only are they adjusting to life as a four-piece, after the departure of drummer Richard Jupp, but frontman Guy Garvey is now a man in love – and he wants to shout about it. He does exactly that with gravelly trademark Mancunian warmth, dispatching beautiful lyrics that wouldn’t seem out of place in a poetry anthology.
Themes of marriage and fatherhood seep through Elbow’s latest work, from their lead single ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, which gushes with parental pride, to the devastatingly romance of ‘Kindling’. Even ‘K2’, which sees the band foray in to the messy world of Brexit, is enveloped in a certain adoration for Garvey’s partner.
Is this fixation to the detriment of the sound? Perhaps. This album feels flat, even monotonous, lacking the stylistic depth of past work; the delicate subtlety of ‘Great Expectations’ and the rocky edge of ‘Grounds for Divorce’ are sorely missed here. There is nothing to latch on to after the first listen. Tracks promise things that they fail to deliver – ‘Gentle Storm’, with its strong cowbell beat, fizzles out without the powerful conclusion that it so clearly deserves.
That said, this is a solid performance from the Manchester band. Multiple listens allow for an appreciation of the intricacies of both the lyrics and sound, redeeming music that fails to grab the listener first time around. Essentially, this is an album that requires patience – give it time, and it will repay you.