SXSW Records

Phases and Stages


Asleep in the Back (V2) Could it possibly be time for a Manchester revival already? Elbow frontman Guy Garvey is to the Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder as a fine port is to raspberry ripple; this is the kinder, gentler sound of the Northwest, exemplified by melodies that sneak up on your heartache when you least expect it. If you're not a bit weepy going in, just give it a moment. You'll be leaking by the time the breakout single/title track hits its lachrymose stride, with Garvey's plaintive chorus of "Oh you had to ask, didn't you? You had to know" tolling in that mourning-bell voice of his. Comparisons to Coldplay, and more specifically, Chris Martin's semi-similar vocals, are apt to a point; both bands travel in the lyrical vagaries of bad black betrayal and broken romance more effectively than they do in flat-out rocking. (Though by the time Elbow's "Newborn" begins winding down, it actually approaches a wall-of-noise velocity that would do Kevin Shields proud if he likely didn't hate them so much.) Plus, there's a ponderous if pleasant melancholy night-tide drowsing over the best work of both. Elbow is more ambitious than Coldplay, though, with soaring, almost folky arrangements that nonetheless incorporate plenty of loops, and according to their liner notes, lots and lots of "wine glasses." Elbow is a sad lot, likely to lead to a life of Merlot, Silk Cuts, and a straight razor or two if you don't watch out. They're gorgeous just the same. (Friday, March 15, Element, 1am)


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