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Asleep In the Back

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iTunes Review

Elbow’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut offers both the comfort of the familiar and the thrill of the new. Singer Guy Garvey’s voice is husky and worn, evoking the intimacy and empathy of a more soulful Peter Gabriel, but the sprawling, unsettling drama of Elbow’s music feels powerful and fresh. The layered vocals, haunted organs and hypnotic, spare construct of opener “Any Day Now” are clear signs that something a bit different is afoot here. The somber, manipulated strings and atmospherics of “Red” cast a bewitching pall, and by the end of the spindly, downbeat third track, “Little Beast,” one wonders if “rock” is the right label for this British band; most of the songs move slowly, their intricate details unfolding with stately purpose. Using vocal tracks as instruments, shading songs with stretched guitar notes, ghostly piano, and stark, echo-drenched percussion, and shattering subdued moments with bristling eruptions, Elbow clearly have a grasp of using the artful component of rock music to create something related, but removed. Asleep In the Back is a startlingly mature, meticulously crafted piece of work that will hold up well for years.

Customer Reviews

Dark, Textured, Gorgeous.

Let's get one thing out of the way: this album is thick. The songs are dark and textured. In each moment, each instrument is something different to be heard. The melodies are intricately woven in a density like few other albums ever made. Long story short, this album is heavy. That may discourage many listeners to dismiss it as impenetrable. This could not be a greater mistake.

The album is as warm as it is dark, and seductive as it is heavy. From the lush harmonies of Powder Blue, the relentlessness of Any Day Now, and even the startling crunch of the guitars in Bitten By The Tailfly, every song is meticulously shaped. This makes for gorgeous moments such as Red and Powder Blue, as well as songs like Coming Second and Bitten By The Tailfly, which can only be described as entrancing.
Part of what makes Asleep In The Back so striking is its lyrics. It would not be an overstatement to declare Guy Garvey the greatest lyricist since Bob Dylan. This is immediately apparent in the beauty of the first half of the album. But Garvey's lyrics also shine in their complete honesty. Poetic lines delivered brutally honestly make songs like Newborn feel completely genuine.

Some albums are content to be a part of the background. Asleep In The Back is not one of these. It's an arresting listen that is completely absorbing. Asleep in The Back is a masterpiece. It's a grower. It's a "headphones album". There is simply so much to be heard that no two listens will be the same. This is an album to keep returning to for years to come.

Elbow, the sweetest word on the radio right now

It must be said that ELBOW has yet to produce a bad album, not that I anticipate one from them anytime soon. Each track seems so well thought-out: the texture of the guitars, the wash of organ (not too much, just enough), the drummer with a jazzman's touch, the vocal pathos and ache seems to fit right in. And the lyrics for these songs are really what sold me on their first album. Of course they're huge in England and are like gods in Manchester. But anyone who listens to any of their albums a few times is going to be hooked. If you liked The Catherine Wheel, you'll like Elbow. And, BTW, the iTunes description of the album and the band is SPOT ON.

If Coldplay were cool. they would be Elbow

This is by far one of the top 5 albums on iTunes. Listening to this album over 50 times, there is something new each time.


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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