After 25 years in a band a little solo excursion might be expected. Guy Garvey is frontman for Elbow who are, for those of you who never stray from the intricate long piece progressive environment, a popular alternative rock combo. Elbow first came to my attention in their 21st year through the medium of television. As I sat writing pretentious rubbish with the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage on the background my ears perked up; nice music and interesting lyrics. So much so that I stopped writing and in the coming weeks devoured the Elbow catalogue. I have not regretted it.
Guy in my opinion is like a Northern Peter Gabriel, interesting structures and clever lyrics with a social awareness and a fondness for nostalgia, that nostalgia reflected in what appears to have been a similar upbringing to mine, despite the geographical differences between Manchester and Reading (Lippy Kids from Build a Rocket Boys). Like our progressive passions I find it hard to pigeon-hole either Elbow or Guy, but I ultimately find each hearing is not wasted time.
Courting the Squall is Mr Garvey stepping outside the confines of the band, working with other musicians and producing something that has both similarities with the day job and is very different. As I attempt to regain some of the fitness of my youth this album has been providing a great soundtrack. I would give you the image of a fat fifty-something dressed in Lycra, but I’d put you off your tea. A balance of upbeat and mellow tracks, or effort and breathe in my case.
I love the use of unusual instruments, the hammered dulcimer, strings, and numerous other items. If prog is defined by the unusual, the strange tempos and strong lyrics then both Elbow and Guy should command your respect.
Angela’s Eyes opens, a rhythmic piece with a danceable element like a rumba, first piece of effort in the studio/gym from me. Written for his girlfriend (with a name change), it’s a love song! It’s fun – get over it – but it also stretches the expectations both as an Elbow aficionado and someone who loves good music in general. Guy explains the anatomy of the song HERE.
Courting the Squall takes and makes for a change of pace, as does Electricity later with the dirty feel of a film noire tune, dark, brooding and atmospheric accompanied by Jolie Holland, it thrills rather than make you think old people’s music. …Squall is not noire, but the changes and challenges are emphasised by a compare and contrast with Electricity.
There is much chopping and changing of styles as Guy flexes his song writing muscles, pop-esque at times and well outside the box at others. It is an interesting album, a good debut and small departure from the style of Elbow.
Belly of the Whale and again the foot taps, the Dad Dance shuffle is again present. That’s me, not Guy. Belly… contains a little bit of Careless Whisper, but don’t hold that against it. The next drops down a notch to mellow again on Broken Bottles and Chandeliers, the slow wind down from exercise, a little like Blur’s Tender but with changes in tempo to make that comparison as slight as it should be.
Whether with Elbow or solo, Guy Garvey paints pictures with words, something I love both in literature and song. You can close your eyes and visualise the scene. Combined with the mixture of instruments – brass, harp, aforementioned dulcimer, saxophone – the aural landscapes painted are wonderful, sometimes just built around a simple rhythm (Unwind), at others layers intricately woven together (Yesterdays).
Now the key to this is should you purchase; I did, but my taste is very broad. If you like words, good music and possibly Elbow, then moth release from your wallet is imminent. Alternatively add it to your Christmas wish list and cross your fingers, then enjoy.
[You can also read Jez Rowden’s TPA review of Guy Garvey live in London HERE]
01. Angela’s Eyes (3:44)
02. Courting the Squall (4:30)
03. Harder Edges (5:28)
04. Unwind (5:49)
05. Juggernaut (5:36)
06. Yesterday (5:06)
07. Electricity (3:41)
08. Belly of the Whale (3:54)
09. Broken Bottles and Chandeliers (4:33)
10. Three Bells (2:54)
Total Time – 45:15
Guy Garvey – Vocals
Nathan Sudders – Bass
Pete Jobson – Guitars
Jolie Holland – Vocals
Ben Christophers – Piano & Synthesisers
Rachael Gladwin – Harps
Alan Reeves – Drums & Percussion
Sarah Field – Trumpet & Saxophones
Anna Kirby – Saxophones
Victoria Rule – Trumpets
Record Label: Polydor
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015