Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World (2005): Review


Produced by Elbow
Label – V2

Unanimously heralded in the U.K., and shunned in the U.S.A, the Manchester quintets 3rd long player works hard to move the band away from the “clever clever” intricacies of previous releases, and purposefully rests on a simpler more organic sound, bringing Guy Garvey’s original vocal style more to the fore. For a number of years, they have been regarded as the next big thing to rival the likes of Coldplay, Travis and Radiohead, and to be honest they often sound like an amalgam of the three. It’s all classically understated Englishness, and works relatively well, except “Leaders Of The Free World” lacks a couple of top quality tunes to elevate the recording to the level of the aforementioned bands. That’s not to imply that there isn’t strong material to be found, but a killer song or two, and maybe the album would warrant the “masterpiece” tag British Rock magazine NME excitedly announced.


The album works best when the band keep it simple, particularly on the acoustic piano and guitar numbers and leads one to think that Garvey has a bright future as a solo artist in the Peter Gabriel mould (his hoarse vocal style sounds like Gabriel) in years to come. The highlights aren’t particularly the singles or the beefed up Indie drones which seem to conform to the expectations of what they consider to be their target audience. For this reviewer the true expression of the band comes in the tender ballads towards the end of the album. “My Very Best” sounds like a tune of a love lost Romeo and as Garvey leads us into the chorus he bleats “You’ve gone, you’ve gone,….you’ve gone and built a home in my heart”. “My Very Best”, “Leaders Of The Free World”, “Picky Bugger” and the lonely and quite beautiful closer “Puncture Repair” also adds to the surrealist flavour of the album.

“Leaders Of The Free World” will never make it to mainstream stations, and in a way that’s a sad indictment of the “quick fix” attitude in today’s’ musical climate. It is worthy of investigation and occasionally sparkles with an individuality rarely found. That said, the addition of a couple of real classics would have made this album the towering long player it should have been.


Track Listing
1. “Station Approach” 4:22
2. “Picky Bugger” 3:07
3. “Forget Myself” 5:22
4. “The Stops” 5:03
5. “Leaders of the Free World” 6:11
6. “An Imagined Affair” 4:43
7. “Mexican Standoff” 4:01
8. “The Everthere” 4:13
9. “My Very Best” 5:33
10. “Great Expectations” 5:05
11. “Puncture Repair” 1:48

Forget Myself

Leaders Of The Free World

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