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Cast of Thousands

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Album Review

There doesn't appear to be an Elbow consensus: they are their own band; they are the Coldplay it's OK to like; they are the Talk Talk for people who've never heard Talk Talk (or Catherine Wheel); they are somewhere between Supertramp and Superchunk; they are part of a succession of over-introspective, twaddle-peddling British rock bands. They are most of these things — the positive things, at least — at various points. On Cast of Thousands, Elbow's second album, the group does deserve to take its rightful place as one of the most respectable rock bands going. What separates this album from the debut isn't all that apparent on the surface. Downcast songs about relationships remain the stock in trade, but the sound has made natural advancements and the quality control is less prone to malfunctioning. In other words, they have followed through on whatever promise Asleep in the Back held; you could sense this would happen, just as you could sense that, after Lazer Guided Melodies, Spiritualized would make an even better record the next time out. However predictable, the minor differences add up to a lot. More so than ever, Elbow's greatest asset is that the band is capable of making big sounds without being bombastic or flashy. And they've tempered the characteristics that got them tagged as sad sacks, although that fact is mostly apparent in the lyrics ("place" rhymes with "virgin mother what's-her-face"; the payoff line in opener "Ribcage" goes "I wanted to explode, to pull my ribs apart and let the sun inside"). The only setback? Gospel choirs. Hopefully, at some point before they make their next album, they'll realize that their songs don't need background vocals from an entire congregation in order to feel redemptive — or powerful.

Customer Reviews

Almost a classic

The reason why I haven't rated this incredible album higher is's slow. I don't mean the songs are slow (though some of them are of course), I mean it takes a rather large amount of time to finally make you realise how damn great it is. It took me many listens, unlike the following two Elbow albums, to get into my head, though admittedly when I'd finally managed to like it, Cast of Thousands blew me away. If you buy this album, to all of you, you may be able to love it at first glance (well, listen) but if you don't, just keep at it. You'll be musically rewarded. Opening track "Ribcage" moves rather quietly and slightly dull, but it builds up and an epic choir emerges to sing the chorus-"And when the sun shine/Throwin' me a life-line/Finds its way into my room/All I need is you". The next track, "Fallen Angel" is quite a more excitable one, and perhaps slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor. Then we move into the awesome classic "Fugitive Motel" with brilliant melodies and lyrics meshing together, proving that "The Seldom Seen Kid"'s glory can be matched. Some of the following tracks are slightly dull, but the bloody beautiful "Switching Off" certainly isn't, and deserves a place in Elbow's top ten songs at least. "Grace Under Pressure" is an AWESOME track yet again, with the same verse being repeated four times but building on drama each time, until the glorious moment comes when a live recording of a few thousand people singing "WE STILL BELIEVE IN LOVE SO **** YOU!" None of the tracks are bad, some average, and the album is good, with some stand-out classics. Just don't dismiss it if it doesn't sound great at first.

The band at their best

What a wonderful album. If you are in a mood just listen to this album and it will cheer you up. With strong vocals and Guy at his best. A buy for any Elbow fan.


Elbe are great, but why buy this album for £7:99 when u can buy th CD in HMV for £3!!!!!

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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 grandiose orchestral 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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