Elbow may be, for many here in the United States, the best band you've never heard of.
The better British acts are producing music of a superior quality compared with many of their American counterparts. Manchester quintet Elbow may be the most unheralded of that bunch. While Coldplay and Keane have gone on to see their works used to hawk everything from indie films to consumer goods, Elbow have remained on the fringes of commercial success, quite possibly by their own doing, but certainly not in spite of themselves. They have progressed both logically and measurably with each release while eschewing the temptation to write albums rife with catchy singles for the radio-fed audience. At the same time, they've not gone the avant garde route of other bands more fixated with being respected as serious artists, rather than admired by their loyal fans. Elbow's brilliance lies in the details and this new release is packed with all of the sublime subtlety and vivid accents that have become the hallmarks of their sound.
Overall, Elbow records are designed not as delivery devices for occasional, epic singles, but as complete works to be heard in their entirety. In fact, vocalist Guy Garvey has been particularly outspoken in his disdain for iTunes' selling practices taking away from artists who, like Elbow, write records designed for uninterrupted listening. The Seldom Seen Kid may be their finest example to date of this deliberate approach. This isn't to say Elbow doesn't write the occasional toe-tapper. "Grounds For Divorce," in particular, is a Zeppelin-esque thumper designed for repeat play on many an iPod. "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver," in particular, is an astonishing standout and worth the price of the whole album.
Driven by their big, Manchester sound and buoyed by Garvey's astute lyrics and haunting vocals, Elbow's songs are accessible without being glib and inventive without being ostentatious. Overall The Seldom Seen Kid finds Elbow in remarkable form.