Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dead In The Boot

Artist: Elbow
Album: Dead In The Boot
Release Date: 27/8/2012

This collection of rarities and B- sides unveils Elbow's dark and secretive side

A collection of rare or previously unheard material and B-sides should feel like what it's supposed to be- an insight into the "Behind Closed Doors" workings of the band. It should feel secretive, perhaps a little dusty from years of sitting in one of the band members' attic. It should have the kind of "lost and forgotten" character that an album that gains an official release right from the off could never have.

Ah, what a contradiction in terms! Elbow's own documentation of its rare and B-sided material, "Dead In The Boot", as is the case with the majority of these kind of compilations, will no longer have that secrecy on paper. These demos, rarities, live versions and B-sides are shoved into public view in what could be seen as an uncanny money grabbing scheme. But will these songs lose any of their flavour or character upon release? Unlikely.

"Dead In The Boot" certainly feels secretive, but more than that this is Elbow showing off their dark side. It's easy to get lost in the often transcendental orchestral manouvres present on Elbow's albums and in turn overlook the well practiced emotion (I mean, how many people know that the band's biggest selling single to date "One Day Like This" is actually about Guy Garvey getting over his alcohol issues?). But there's no such loss of emotion here. These songs revel in their subtle character.

"Every Bit The Little Girl" is a pastorally beautiful Tindersticks- esque moment with it's electronically produced clicking beat and xylophone melody. "The Long War Shuffle" is a quietly Southern- fried stomp- along (like a less clunky and industrial Kasabian) that casts a sceptical eye over involvement in brooding foreign affairs as Garvey sings "I'm not getting any younger/ But the soldiers are." "McGreggor" is sparse and ominously nervous throughout, an alienating and eventually screeching keyboard and a slinky percussive click creating the tension.

It's easy to see why these songs didn't make the cut for Elbow's records. The only song here that really fits into their grandiose mould is "Lay Down Your Cross", which sees Garvey begging for sex over a lushous, layered symphony. But maybe Elbow should make room for their darker, more secretive and distant side, because it's certainly potent. In case it never happens though, we should be thankful indeed for this supplement. There is always character behind closed doors.

Key Tracks: "The Long War Shuffle" "McGreggor" "Lay Down Your Cross"


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