Elbow – Seldom seen kid

While Madonna, David Bowie and Kylie Minogue embrace emerging or popular sounds, with varying degrees of success and cynicism, others only slightly alter what they do over time. Others like Neil Young, 50 Cent or Elbow. A fourth album from Guy Garvey and chums ushers in an occasionally more cheerful and experimental era for the Bury band, but for the most part it's brilliant business as usual.

The Seldom Seen Kid begins with Starlings, a tender effort that, aside from its insane horn blasts and Sigur Ros waves of feedback, comes on like a very now version of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross.

Next up we’re in familiar territory. Chanting, flamenco flourishes, a lyric that aches with lines of cryptic longing like, ''I'm five years ago and 3,000 miles away'', inventive percussion and a haunting yet uplifting Garvey vocal. The Bones Of You is so damn Elbow it should have half an arm coming out of both ends. It is followed by Mirrorball, a beautiful acoustic guitar and piano-led drift into dreams with an epic widescreen synth and strings chorus. It may not be a huge leap of originality for these men, but there is no one else who does it this well.

Elsewhere, Grounds For Divorce, the album's big single, is immense. It snarls, bites, chants and thrashes like Alabama 3 wrestling alligators in a Louisiana Bayou. Pedal steel guitars, handclaps (the hallmark of so many genius singles)… You can imagine Guy watching The Wild Bunch and wearing a Stetson as he laid down the vocal in the studio.

From here only the ponderous An Audience With the Pope dips below the high standard set. Special mention must go to The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver, which is so huge it sounds like a weight-lifting welder building a giant ship from concrete blocks and The Fix, which features a duet with Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley. It evokes a doomed funfair ride and is probably the best tune about gambling since The Card Cheat by The Clash.Those who find Elbow drab will still probably be unmoved by this Talk Talk-inspired band's latest. But for everyone else who likes to be moved, relaxed, and cheered by superior, soulful Mancunian lullabies, The Seldom Seen Kid is essential.

 

These two 45rpm discs cut that way for better sound quality are more natural sounding than a lot of today's discs but do sound a little compressed. The vinyl is quite heavyweight and housed in a gatefold sleeve with details and lyrics printed on the inside. Inner sleeves are standard die cut white. The sleevenotes also reference the website turnmeup.org an organisation dedicated to the return to a more natural mastering process.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/2bcz/

The Blue Nile – High

It's a well known story but for those who weren't paying attention I'll briefly summarise the tale for you. In 1984 three young Glaswegians who called themselves The Blue Nile released an l.p. on Scottish hi fi company Linn's record label that chiefly existed to promote the quality of their equipment.

A Walk Across The Rooftops became a bit of a cult classic so a quick follow up on a larger label with more promotional muscle was expected. However it was another five years before the follow up Hats was released, again to worldwide acclaim but with the world at their feet they decided to disappear again, for six years this time before the less anticipated Peace At Last came out. Apparently they were ready with an album three years ago but, perfectionists that they are they scrapped it, so now its eight years on and when most imagined they'd given up, a new Blue Nile CD has appeared.

Don't expect any Bowie or Radiohead like reinventions, c'mon it's The Blue Nile, so you get what you expected namely writer Paul Buchanan's gorgeous almost spoken vocals, largely slow melancholic tunes led by either piano or guitar and an understated production that begins to reveal itself on repeated plays.

Opener Days Of Our Lives is instantaneously recognisable as The Blue Nile and deals with lifestyle stagnation a recurring theme throughout the album. First single I Would Neve r is next. It has a gospel feel reminiscent of U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and is followed by Broken Loves which creates an edgy imagery of a dead end love affair, driven by an insistent piano motif.

Buchanan has stated that he has never been to Toledo , Ohio but that Because Of Toledo came about from an overheard conversation in a cafe during his sojourn in California in the 90's. It's a beautiful, simple melody starting on a lone acoustic guitar. It was during this spell that he dated actress Rosanna Arquette, who could be a possible source of the girl trouble documented in the lyrics despite the fact Buchanan have been back in Glasgow for a while now.

The most upbeat track musically, on the disc is She Saw The World but lyrically it maintains the wistful theme of reflectance on a collapsing relationship. The slow moving title track is another highlight with similar lyrical insight.

The only track previously released is Soul Boy which appeared in a radically different version on ex Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm's Reason album last year. It's another slow burner in keeping with much of the rest of what is a very cohesive album overall.

Calum Malcolm is at the helm for production duties as on previous Nile releases and creates a late night atmosphere similar to that of Hats . Initially sounding bare but with deeper investigation showing that more is going on there than you first imagined. Synthesisers are used with uncommon tastefulness to colour the sound and as on their other releases a drum machine provides percussion which can occasionally grate.

It should be noted that despite absolutely no mention in the packaging this disc that some copies of this disc are heavily copyright protected and will not play on a pc.

© Gordon Russell