In the late 1990s, Elbow came out from the Manchester music scene. The band is made up of Guy Garvey (vocals), Mark Potter (guitar), Craig Potter (keyboard/organ), Peter Turner (bass) and Richard Jupp (drums). In 1997, the band signed with Island Records, however, its debut album was never released due to the band being dropped following Universal’s buy-out of Island. It wasn’t until 2000 that Elbow is fully made known to the world with its first album Asleep In The Back on V2 Records. The album was nominated by a slew of music awards including the Mercury Music Prize. Elbow’s next album Cast Of Thousands further cemented the band’s critical and commercial success. Leaders Of The Free World is Elbow’s third album, and with expectations high, the band does it’s best to not disappoint.
Any contemporary British band will almost automatically be compared to the megaband Oasis. Any comparison would surely be superficial – Oasis makes upbeat rock while Elbow makes mellow rock. The closest comparable band would be Brooklyn band TV On The Radio, especially with the enchanting and melodic title track “Leaders Of The Free World” or the almost transcendent “Forget Myself” (although influence from Nine Inch Nails can be made as well). But, nothing on the album is better than “Picky Bugger” with its bluesy vocals, super cool melodies and shadowy rhythms. It’s almost as if Guy Garvey is singing in a room that is half nightclub and half street alley.
Mellow might not even be the most accurate word to describe either the band or the album. Spiritual would more exact, dealing with the epiphany of true love in “My Very Best” and with the love letter confession of “Great Expectations.” Somehow these songs leave you bare with nothing but your thoughts and feelings, exposing you to distant buried memories of a life long past its last sunset. What Elbow is able to do is internalize raw emotion, allowing the soul to be finally be free.