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The Seldom Seen Kid

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Album Review

In a world where even the generally mediocre likes of Snow Patrol can have honest to goodness mainstream pop success, it seems peculiar that Elbow have never broken through beyond a devoted cult following. (Admittedly, the fact that their new labels, Polygram's alt rock imprint Fiction Records in the U.K. and Geffen in the U.S., are their fourth and fifth, respectively, after stints on Island, EMI, and V2, may have a lot to do with their lack of mainstream attention.) Exploring the fruitful middle ground between early Radiohead's mopey art rock and Coldplay's radio-friendly dumbing down of the same, Elbow makes records built on a balance of things not often found together anymore: strange musical textures alongside immediately accessible pop song choruses, or unexpected left turns in song structure paired with frontman Guy Garvey's warm, piercing vocals. It's no surprise that Elbow are regularly compared to old-school prog rockers like Pink Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra: they're proof that records can be cool and commercial at the same time, an idea that's not particularly hip in this day and age. Yet a song like "Grounds for Divorce," which puts a sharp, wryly funny Garvey lyric against a clanging, Tom Waits-like arrangement and throws on one of the album's catchiest tunes for good measure, or "Some Riot," which filters a yearning, lovely melody for guitar and piano through so many layers of effects and processing that it can be hard to tell what the original instruments sounded like, isn't afraid to display its accessibility even on its most experimental numbers. At the album's best, including the spacious, atmospheric balladry of the opening "Starlings" (imagine if Sigur Rós could write a pop song as emotionally direct as Keane's "Everybody's Changing") and the potential radio breakthroughs of the soaring, semi-orchestral epic "One Day Like This" (complete with choral climax!) and the wistful "Weather to Fly," The Seldom Seen Kid is Elbow's most self-assured and enjoyable album so far. [The U.K. version added "We're Away" as a bonus track.]

Customer Reviews

Poetic Genius

Some of the most evocative lyrics you'll come across with amazing warmth, humour and genuine sentiment (oh my...i'm starting to well-up). These guys keep getting better & better. And on top of it all...they're nice blokes. Forget the analogies of "Coldplay meets Radiohead"...Elbow stand out on their own. So "Starlings" might challenge you at first, but on the third listen, it all fits. "Grounds for Divorce" is a wry grinder of a song. "Mirrorball" a gem. You can't go wrong with this stuff.

Just Plain Awesome

Every song on this album, with the possible exception of The Fix, is amazing. Grounds for Divorce will be stuck in your head for the rest of your life and you will be glad.


Being a fan of Elbow for about 8 years, it is shocking to hear that the bandmates have been together for 19. After four brilliant albums, Elbow never gets old. Their poetic lyrics and soulful music gives listeners a rare and, ultimately, lovely experience. The Seldom Seen Kid sees itself as a new style for Elbow, by singing about love and loss and how to deal with the most beautiful things life can give (or take away). Their rough around the edges but intimate interior will capture any listener. A phenomenal work any music lover would enjoy. I love this band!


Formed: 1997 in Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Injecting a wider range of emotions into their music than most of their guitar-based British peers, Elbow have been known to refer to their orchestral, grandiose sound as "prog without the solos." The members of the band -- vocalist Guy Garvey, drummer Richard Jupp, organist Craig Potter, guitarist Mark Potter, and bassist Pete Turner -- met during the early '90s while attending college in Bury. After moving several miles south to Manchester proper, the band went through a couple of developmental...
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