ELBOW Little Fictions (Universal) Here’s what new, apart from the now-veteran band returning without drummer Richard Jupp. Tempos sometimes are a tad brisker, atmospheres are usually less cloistered and semi-lit, horizons are mostly clearer. K2 has a skip in its step and in its heart irrespective of some of the grittier elements described in the lyrics. Trust The Sun puts its faith in people not cities or environments and finds that a comfort. But most attractively in the album’s opening track, Magnificent (She Says), there’s the shared joy of a child embracing the world – “And there she stands, throwing both her arms around the world” - because she doesn’t know there’s any reason not to. And along the way she makes those around her put aside their own hesitations/barriers for a while. “It’s all gonna be magnificent, she says”. Essentially this is a house where the curtains have been pulled back more and the light – still the not exactly glaring muted sun of Manchester – is coming in. A house where the windows have been opened enough for a breeze – still the not exactly pristine air of Manchester – to refresh. Here’s what’s not new. Guy Garvey’s voice is still that of the ideal friend, the one who will forgive you all and understand it all and be there. It still feels imperfect in all the best ways. The band still plays within a range that could be called mid-tempo to mid-mid tempo. When choirs or strings arrive, as with All Disco where some heavenly (but, crucially, not perfectly angelic) female voices step forward, they feel like hugs not drugs.
Little Fictions is not a relocation and not really a renovation; the long, complex title track, musically as much as lyrically, doesn’t pretend the world has somehow become an Amalfi coast postcard. And Elbow still sing of missteps in love and life. But it is a decent spring clean and the cushions have been plumped up and dusted down to make you a little better placed as you assume your usual position. It’s because Elbow sound like a band with a renewed purpose after focusing inwards a bit more the last time around. Their mission - and you can take it as given that they’ve chosen to accept it - remains to be a solace and a support.
In Head For Supplies a plainly dressed guitar figure plays underneath Garvey crooning into your ear, telling a friend “the way your read me like you wrote this book” is something special, when you know it is as likely to be Garvey who is as deeply invested and there, even as “across the city there’s a chill”. Why? Because, well, he’d probably give you his coat in that chill. You can rest for a week on the piano in Trust The Sun and let the bass in Firebrand & Angel carry you to your next destination. You could have a little sob into the rhythm section of Kindling and just wallow in the guitar of Montparnasse. You can, in other words, use Elbow’s Little Fictions as an argument for careful optimism in the continuing presence of your fellow human. In these Trumpian times that’s a hard argument to make but an admirable one to hold on to.