The Take Off and Landing Of Everything, the English band Elbow’s seventh album, embodies that unnamed genre of unforgettable music that’s completely worth waiting around for. It’s quiet and tranquil, yet bursting with life and mystery. With most of the tracks spanning more than five minutes in length, each song sucks the listener into an inspiring journey.
A more optimistic alternative to Radiohead, Elbow’s music floats on the cusp of weirdness while still appearing human and honest. Despite a number of identifiable influences (Radiohead being one), Elbow is captivating in its heterogeneity. Their sound vacillates between the abstract and the philosophical, sometimes shooting for artistry, at other times striving for something more. Lyrics from tracks such as “My Sad Captains” spill over with a pleasing yet cynical wisdom: “Another sunrise with my sad captains / with who I choose to lose my mind /And if its so we only pass this way once / what a perfect waste of time.” The song seems playfully to mock all the strange things that people tend to cherish in life, yet with a dreamy, dazed and slow melody. Even if life is converted into an odd and slightly depressing object of speculation, the slow blare of trumpets makes the exposition seem more than OK.
Each song on the album takes pride in being so much more than it appears. The lyrics are far from minimal; but still, there’s an overwhelming emotional presence that only occasionally decides to float to the surface, surprising us with a delightful passion for life and experience. The song “Honey Sun” seems relatively grim on the surface, flattened by sinister background vocals and monotonous techno beats. Yet the futuristic hypnosis gives way to a livelier chorus: the bounce of a tambourine matched with the brilliant, sad and enlightened voice of Guy Garvey.
Despite its overwhelming wisdom, the stories that fill the songs still loom on the edge of error. They toy with mistakes and habits and sorrows. “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” channels this sadness into assonant wordplay: “Would the dawn ever kiss me, forgiven me, knowing what’s done / Would the drivel make scribble make sense and then song.” As a result of being plain smart, poetic and just a little bit meta, the words imprint themselves in our minds just like they should. More than anything, the lyrics, and more generally the music, remind us what music is actually for: to inspire us and, at its core, to make us feel really damn good.
Unlike the band’s last album Dead in the Boot, The Take Off feels less experimental, more self-absorbed and confident. The newer album may not be layered with thrilling effects and computerized idiosyncrasies, but it still sticks to us with slow reverberations and a perpetual echo. The instrumentals are often subdued till the bridge, giving the lyrics a chance to shine through. And they do. Loaded and meaningful, whether telling a story or creating one, the words give us something to think about.
Beautiful, creepy, slow and inspiring, the music of Elbow has a way of throwing itself across an emotional spectrum, hardly looking for a point to focus in on. From the seeming heartbreak of “Charge” to the self-satisfied pop-aura of “Colour Fields,” Elbow never ceases to surprise. Well worth the second, third and fourth listen, The Take Off and Landing of Everything reminds us what great music is really supposed to sound like.
5 out of 5 stars