Arguably (though there’s no debate among the voices in this listener’s head) the best album of 2001, Asleep In The Back must have been a tough (and tender) act to follow. Partly because the Lancashire-based band had around 10 years to write, record and re-record that debut, navigating a route through various music biz mazes. Required to deliver a follow-up with unaccustomed haste after gold discs, rave reviews and sold-out US tours, Elbow initially froze. “It was like rolling a boulder up a hill”, Guy Garvey’s said. They took a break, reflected, reconvened. Then they got it so very right.
Produced by Ben Hillier, demoed in a church on the Isle Of Mull then recorded in Liverpool, Cast Of Thousands is as challenging and emotionally turbulent as its predecessor, yet faithful to its foundation feel. It’ll make you cry, laugh and freak in the same parts of your body. It’s human where Radiohead are impenetrable, but complex where Coldplay are banal. Somehow my notes include the phrases Kes, Kafka, Hendrix and WB Yeats. One of us is on something, and lo, their something is honest and good.
“Ribcage” sets the tone(s), matching “Newborn” for ambition. The incredibly twisty melody shouldn’t stay in your brain but does, Garvey warring against clich