My greatest desire when listening to Elbow is that they will let loose, lose composure, and let their songs get a bit dirty and hit the listener right in the guts like a freight train. They approach those moments, leaning out over the precipice, but absolute control is always maintained – it’s just how they do business. With their seventh studio album, Little Fictions, Elbow again prove themselves consummate musicians and songwriters, delivering a polished and focused record, despite the departure of founding drummer Richard Jupp in 2016 as work on the album began.
From the outset, with Magnificent (She Says), it is clear that Elbow are delivering exactly the sound that is expected of them, never deviating from the template that they have set for themselves with their previous releases. This is a great strength, but is also a major shortcoming. While it is nigh on impossible to find fault with Guy Garvey’s robust yet delicate vocals, Craig Potter’s piano and keyboard – he is also responsible for the album’s immaculate production values – and the bass and guitar work of Pete Turner and Mark Potter respectively, it also difficult not to feel that you could be listening to almost any other Elbow release.
The Hallé Orchestra and their choir supplement the quartet’s talents, particularly evident in the strings of Magnificent (She Says), and the choral backing – which compliments Garvey’s voice brilliantly – on the sparkling and light All Disco. Although disappointingly ending with a fade-out, Trust the Sun features a marvellous ebb and flow, with the main guitar line creating a wonderful sense of tension complemented by Turner’s minimal bass, which sits perfectly within the mix. Firebrand & Angel’s solid groove, and mid-song change, build to create the withheld catharsis that indicates Elbow are performing at full strength.
A little too long at 8 minutes duration, and featuring changes in pacing that don’t quite fall into place, the eponymous Little Fiction exemplifies Elbow’s musicianship and integrity as a band, while the cross-fade to album closer, and vaguely folkish track, Kindling is well executed. While the 10 tracks of Little Fictions denies me the emotional abandon I crave, it is hard to complain when every song is so expertly crafted.