When I started listening to the first of my two Elbow albums for this post, I didn’t like the music. I couldn’t connect. I knew they are really popular and I was thinking ‘oh no, I’m going to have to find yet another way of doing the “we can’t all like the same thing all the time” thing’ (even though this is true).
And then An Audience With The Pope came on and changed everything.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I downloaded my first Elbow album, Build A Rocket Boys! when they released it in 2011. And just for good measure, because I knew they were really popular, and had read interesting-sounding reviews about their music, I downloaded at the same time their previous album, The Seldom Seen Kid (2008). Quick as a flash, I then made absolutely no attempts to actually listen to either album. But boy did I feel trendy to have them in my listings!
For anyone who has not come across this band, Elbow are a British ‘alternative rock band’. The Seldom Seen Kid won the Mercury Music Prize in 2008, and they were the band behind the BBC’s theme tune for the 2012 London Olympics, which they recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
This to me illustrates one of the very delicious aspects of ‘alternative’ bands becoming popular. Can they still be ‘alternative’ then, when many, many people like and support them? At what point does their music become mainstream?
There is certainly no doubt that Elbow’s music is anything but conveyor-belt, identi-kit fare. I can’t say that I adore every track on the two albums in my possession. Starlings and The Birds (ironically) both seem a bit heavy going and perhaps I will grow to love them with increased listens over time. But let’s get back to that one about the Pope. I had decided to start with Elbow’s earlier album first. And you’ll remember the scene – there’s me getting ready to say things like I’ll have to give Elbow the elbow ha ha. And then An Audience With the Pope mooches on to the iPhone stage. Immediately, I am transported to the very coolest late night joint – where I would be the motley detective sat at the bar; the owner would be casually drying glasses; there would be hardly any punters left; the band would be playing on the smallest of badly-lit stages for the love of playing; and a femme fatale dressed in red and black glides in to the sultry strains of……
“I have an audience with the Pope and I’m saving the world at eight, but if she says she needs me, she says she needs me, everybody’s gonna have to wait…”
Oh, it’s the most sexy thing I have heard since I wrote about David Gray‘s music. And then I was on a roll – I suddenly seemed to ‘get’ Elbow. The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver not only has a great title, but the most magnificent oomfiness about it. And The Fix has a such great quirky rhythm and a whiff of the Pet Shop Boys about it. Etc Etc, to quote the King of Siam. So I’m not worried about any body parts at all now. I’ll take time to listen to these albums a few more times because a) I think they deserve it and b) I’m pretty sure that any tracks which I don’t already get will be got fairly quickly. And I don’t even expect to have to don a trench coat and trilby to get the full effect, although now that I think of it….