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Leaders of the Free World

Elbow

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Album Review

When Doves headed to the studio for the recording of their third album, 2005's Some Cities, they returned home to Manchester. With that kind of scenic inspiration and emotional attachment, Some Cities resulted in Doves' best of their career at that moment. It is mere coincidence that their musical mates, Elbow, have done the same for their third album, Leaders of the Free World. Such a coincidence is a bit comforting in the respect that Elbow do not stray from what they have previously done. Despite being cast as a gloomy bunch on their first two albums — 2001's Asleep in the Back and 2004's Cast of Thousands — Elbow trudge on as an emotional band. Singer/songwriter Guy Garvey doesn't wallow in failed relationships as much as he enjoys being cynical and playful about the world around him. Sure, Elbow's more melodic, pensive moments such as "The Stops" and "The Everthere" are classic heartbreakers, with piano-driven melodies lush in melancholic acoustic guitars and Garvey's somber disposition. Leaders of the Free World really comes to life when Elbow give in, allowing these songs to grow into something glorious. Album opener "Station Approach" and "Forget Myself" are brilliant examples of this. "Forget Myself" metaphorically points fingers at a media-obsessed culture that is equally blasé about its own issues. Garvey throws his hands in the air, sighing to himself to "look for a plot where I can bury my broken heart." The album's title track also criticizes a very questionable political system, demanding, "I need to see the Commander in Chief and remind what was passed on to me" as a storm of electric guitars mirrors an anxious, waxing delivery by the band itself — "Passing the gun from father to feckless son, we're climbing a landslide where only the good die young." Elbow are a great band regardless of what it takes for them to find their footing. Leaders of the Free World is a bit more rock & roll than not, with guts and heart, because Elbow have finally embraced their powerful, surrounding space this time out.

Biography

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...
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Leaders of the Free World, Elbow
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