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Elbow’s eighth full-length studio release Giants of All Sizes is a dark record, for even darker times.
Grief is rife, Britain is in crisis and yet the Mancunian alt-rockers still manage to offer a glimmer of hope and healing – even if it’s fleeting.
Recorded in Hamburg and featuring contributions from Chilli Chilton, Jesca Hoop and The Plumedores, Elbow tackle Brexit, the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the death of vocalist Guy Garvey’s father, as well as fellow Manchester heavyweights Jan Oldenburg of Night & Day Café and Scott Alexander of Big Hands who both passed away in the summer. It comes as no surprise then, that perhaps their usual Northern optimism is waning slightly.
Still, the sombre themes allow the group to break some new ground, offering experimental quips without straying too far from the sound they’ve become synonymous with.
Dexter and Sinister kicks off with a catchy but distorted bass riff before dabbling in electronic beats. Stark piano melodies push against lyrics “How do you keep your eyes ablaze …in these faith free, hope free, charity free days”, yet there appears to be no clear answer offered.
Weightless balances the crushing loss of Garvey’s father with the joy of watching his young son grow, while Deronda Street warmly praises parenthood.
Empires is guided by relentless drum strikes and effortless balladry as Guy Garvey launches into a pained chant about loss, before his bereft vocals fall away in favour of the lone organ finish.
While never referencing it directly, White Noise White Heat confronts the terror of Grenfell Tower with bitterness. The song is a highlight – bulldozing with an angry prog-rock inspired instrumental and brutal admissions “I was born with a trust that didn’t survive the white noise and lies”. The fuzzy guitars, emphatic strings and brass build to an intense but quiet rage as they lyrically confront injustice.
The Delayed 3:15 welcomes a clarinet riff while scattered, agitated lyrics detail the grim tale of a suicide victim being pulled from train tracks outside London, “You didn’t make the news, you’re just a man with blues who stopped his heart…” combined with whistling and sympathetic strings which only add to the anguish.
While themes are turbulent, there’s still a glint of optimism and hope for redemption through small victories. Giants of All Sizes is adventurous and significant, a strong reminder of Elbow’s ability to deliver consistent indie masterpieces even when the world feels bleak.
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1. Dexter & Sinister
2. Seven Veils
4.The Delayed 3:15
5. White Noise White Heat
7. My Trouble
8. On Deronda Road
Listen to Giants of All Sizes on Spotify: