Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid

Pegging Elbow's sound is tricky, and not just because its members once unhelpfully referred to themselves as "prog without the solos." Image-wise, they seemingly strive to be as nondescript as possible. They're "anthemic," but nothing like U2 or Doves. They're gloomy, lyrically self-loathing Brits, but not nearly eccentric enough to be Radiohead. They're genre-compression machines — their fourth studio album takes unexpected cues from tango—but they'll never have the flamboyance of David Bowie or Beck. Elbow is just a band of smart, dedicated musicians whose expansive songs work through lush instrumentation and diffuse structures to build ballads without hooks, midway between Tindersticks' gloom and Guillemots' flamboyance. Quintessential repeat-listen music, The Seldom Seen Kid's instantly perceivable sonic frills give way to solid but not stolid songs: Tango or Led Zeppelin, it all gets folded into an instrumental density few bands can match, in the studio or otherwise. As ever with Elbow, the album is too long, ever ready to make room for more lush melancholy. But beneath the superficial drabness and gloom is a band as diverse as any of its flashier contemporaries


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