This Flight is Grounded
The Take Off and Landing of Everything, the new album from English rockers Elbow, follows in the wake of the band’s success with 2011’s Build A Rocket Boys!, which, like almost everything the band has done, earned them a spot high on the billboard charts. And while there’s something to be said for consistency and for longevity—this is the band’s sixth studio album since 2001—The Take Off and Landing of Everything falls short of the kind of epic gesture that even its name aims to achieve.
Elbow’s penchant for the grandiose characterized Build A Rocket Boys!, and the same posturing is detectable from the start of this album, as well. The opening track, “This Blue World,” begins with martial drums, soft synths, and vocalist Guy Garvey’s mellow crooning. Rich bass tones and trebly, arpeggiated guitar chords chime in as the song builds up gradually, a slow burner (and the album’s longest track) that tries to be a grand opening statement. There’s a maturity, a calmness, to “This Blue World,” but rather than providing profound insights, it feels like it’s simply retracing well-trodden ground.
Though the album starts off with its great statement, much of The Take Off and Landing of Everything is unremarkable—it’s enjoyable enough to listen to, but this isn’t an album that’s likely to stick in collective memory. The percussive, staccato “Charge” has a slick, hooky verse and a redeeming bridge with bright orchestral swells of strings, and “New York Morning” evokes a matin, with soft, light synths that eventually pick up into rousing horns, as if easing listeners up into the day. These tracks and others like “Real Life (Angel)” and “Honey Sun” are perfectly worthy songs, but they’re just that—the status quo.
Exceptions are “Fly Boy Blue / Lunette” and “My Sad Captains.” The first eschews electronics for a shuffling beat and acoustic guitar, with Garvey droning in a dark monotone over the simplified instrumentation about the sorry state of politics. Sultry, jazzy horns in the refrain mark the album’s most memorable moment, where saxes wail and wobble over bassy trumpets. This is the moment on the album that actually does feel big and epic. “My Sad Captains” also steps a little away from the mold of the rest of the album. Distorted keys play a warm melody accentuated by slow, clapping percussion, warm acoustic guitar, and a clean, muted trumpet. Here, too, is a moment where the swaying, engaging music comes forward unpretentiously, honestly—reminding us why Elbow have garnered such support over the last decade, and why they’re still a band worth keeping an eye on in the years to come.