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Hopefully, with the success of The Seldom Seen Kid, people will return to this album and it will get the recognition it deserves. It is easily as good as, if not better than The Seldom Seen Kid.
A lot of critics have treated Elbow as a less interesting version of Coldplay or Keene. I would argue that they are far more interesting, trying to avoid cliched ways of expressing emotion and the songs having much better lyrical content
The arrangements are simple and grandoise at the same time - preceding album, Cast of Thousands, had a very stripped down sound, with the odd choir or glastonbury crowd singing along. This album builds on that. Only adding strings or alternate instruments if they are absolutely essential.
There are a couple of proper rockers on here, too, and i think this is the first Elbow album on which the loud tracks are as good as their softer moments and slowly building arrangements
The last few years have seen the British music scene become increasingly more vibrant. There have been a large number of new bands appeared since the start of 2003 and there were a few that returned during that year as well. Elbow were one of those bands and at the time 2003's Cast Of Thousands was certainly the bands best album to date. That is however until a few weeks ago when the band returned to release their 3rd studio album, Leaders Of The Freeworld. The album title alone showed that the album was influenced heavily by political events around the time they were writing it, such as Live 8.
Instead of getting a producer in to help them with the album, Elbow decided that they would much rather produce this album themselves. It is perhaps this fact that has made the album better than the previous 2. The fact the band were producing means the album has a unique sound and will be a lot closer to the type of sound they were looking for. In the past I've been a little dubious of bands producing their own material but in this case it seems that Elbow really have a talent for it. The sound they have created is a joy to listen to.
It isn't an album that will hook you from the first minute though. For me there were a couple of tracks I loved straight away and that kept me listening while one by one the rest of the album started to grow on me. Of course the singles had already had a chance to grow on me before buying the album and along with those a couple of other songs stood out but the remainder of the album had to grow on me. For that reason though I think I actually enjoy it more because it didn't hit me straightaway.
As a result the album has been on a constant cycle in my car CD player, with Guy Garvey's vocals slowly lingering in my mind. There are a number of times during the day when I hear myself humming or reciting words to a few of these tracks in my head. It seems to be a talent that Guy has to enable lyrics to really touch you deeper inside than you might expect. With the album called Leader's Of The Freeworld it is only expected that there is a political undertone but its subtle and that works a lot better than if it were right in your face.
It's not just a talent for lyrics and production that makes this the best Elbow album so far, it's also a matter of the music. The previous two albums have contained the Epics but at times they seemed to drift off a little. This time round the guitars all compliment each other perfectly and the result still has the epic sound to it, without the need for it to drift off. Quite often with their earlier material, particularly on the first album I found myself using it as background music. This time however leading Bass lines and some excellent guitar riffs take Elbow's Indie sound to a different level.
I also found there to be quite a passionate undercurrent about the album. It would seem that the new production freedom has allowed the band to really show off their passion for music. From a band that were championed by the late great John Peel that really makes this album more enjoyable on a whole different level. Guy's vocals are incredibly distinctive and I think that adds to the appeal that each track creates.
A lot of people will have different opinions about this album. I think there will be tracks like "Forget Myself" and "Mexican Standoff" that most people will like. In fact from my own point of view there isn't a single track on this album that I don't like, however like the two previously mentioned tracks there are also tracks like "Great Expectations" and "Puncture Repair" that other people simply won't be able to listen to. There have been times when these two tracks have both been skipped but now I simply can't bring myself not to listen to any of them.
My favourite track on the album is a close call between "Station Approach" and the first single "Forget Myself". I would say though that at a slight push it would have to be "Station Approach". It's quite a slow paced song to begin with, centring on a beautifully simplistic acoustic guitar as Guy's vocals come in slow at first. The pace picks up and the song really reflects the feelings that the majority of the album conveys. The lyrics are simple and like the rest of the album Garvey's vocals are distinctive and powerful really portraying the passionate feel of the album.
Overall it's not an album that will make you instantly fall in love with it. It's more like the one you make friends with a slowly the realisation comes over you that you do in fact love it. For me it's really got under my skin and there doesn't seem to be a day go by that I don't listen to at least a couple of tracks on it. There is no new approach from Elbow; it's just a more focussed version of their old approach. If you've enjoyed the singles then I would say its an album you will enjoy, if your not familiar with the band this is an excellent place to start. I'm guessing what I am saying is the new passion in Elbows music makes this an album you really should own.
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Station Approach
2 Picky Bastard
3 Forget Myself
4 The Stops
5 Leaders of the Free World
6 An imagined Affair
7 Mexican Standoff
8 The Everthere
9 My Very Best
10 Great Expectations
11 Puncture Repai