Elbow is definitely one of those ‘Marmite’ bands – a taste that listeners either love or loathe, seemingly with no middle ground. But whatever your stance is on the recent output of Guy Garvey and his cohorts, one thing has never diminished and that is the big man’s ability to put the deepest human emotions into written form and sung with all the heartfelt agony only a northern Brit could muster.
Elbow's most recent album, Little Fictions, which was released at the beginning of 2017, came in for some criticism from the non-converts for just being more of the same. But anyone familiar with the band's material will have noticed a more mellow Garvey. Newly married to actress Rachael Stirling (the 40-year-old daughter of Diana Rigg), his previous anger over failed personal relationships has been replaced by a man evidently in love and not afraid to croon it from the rooftops. The angst and toxicity is still there, it's just that these days it's reserved for those bringing about Brexit.
Which means he's free to unleash his softer, more romantic side with glorious compositions like Gentle Storm, which is surely a contender for 'most beautiful song of 2017'. Watch the mesmerising monochrome video, directed by Kevin Godley. See the morphing faces, marvel at the perfect lip-synching and moan about Benedict Cumberbatch's ubiquity. But then hit repeat and close your eyes.
Elbow's drummer, Richard Jupp, left the band in 2016 after a quarter of a century and this seems to have opened up the percussive elements of Elbow's current sound. The bare simplicity of Gentle Storm's driving tin can backbeat and subtle synth refrain provide a welcome centre stage to Garvey's magnificent, soaring vocals in which the man opens up like rarely before.
“I will fly swift and true,” he starts, “straight to you like an arrow. Just to be where you lie. Meet my quest, do my shambling best to be near you,” before suggesting his intended might like to fall in love with him every day. Who wouldn’t want that?
“Counting down, now the clocks reset when I met you,” he continues in the second verse, before the killer line: “Yours and my spit-shone restless hearts, they were meant to beat one time, share one fate, from this day.”
Simple, bleeding heart romance does not come more disarming, nor more honest. If you’ve ever had that indescribable feeling of falling in love, you’ll know exactly what he’s singing about and perhaps get an inkling into this band’s enduring popularity.