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Music / Elbow

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Mr Soft Elbow are a band from Bury, Greater Manchester. Compared to Genesis, Coldplay and Radiohead, they've been slightly ignored by the music press, until recently.

They were first signed to Ugly Man Records, and released two EPs, including the infamous Noisebox. After a bit, Asleep in the Back was released. It gained critical acclaim, but had the misfortune of poor sales.

Two years later, Cast of Thousands came out. It's recording sessions nearly caused the band's breakup. The "Elle and Bo" incident didn't help. It's generally accepted that's it's not the band's best. After another two years, Elbow produced Leaders of the Free World, a tribute to their hometown. To this day it's a fan favourite, sometimes surpassing their monumental next record.

The Seldom Seen Kid was released in early 2008, to critical and, for the first time, commercial success. A loose concept album, it's dedicated to Bryan Glancy, a close friend of the band.

In March 2011, they released Build A Rocket Boys! It was deliberately made to not alienate earlier fans, but also has a distinct sound from former albums. As usual, critical opinion is overwhelmingly positive.

Three years later, they followed it up The Take Off And Landing Of Everything, which was less commercial yet managed to become their first album to enter the top spot.

Another three years followed with the arrival of Little Fictions, a sparse, percussion-led affair (ironically recorded after their drummer left the band), whilst the much harder-edged Giants of All Sizes dropped in 2019.

Band Members

  • Guy Garvey: Lead singer. Loves birdwatching.
  • Pete Turner: Bassist. Plays microKORG.
  • Richard Jupp: Drummer. Bald. Departed from the group in 2016.
  • Mark Potter: lead guitarist, backing vocals. Big version of sibling...
  • Craig Potter: Keyboardist. Produced each album starting from The Seldom Seen Kid.


  • Album Title Drop: "Lippy Kids" title-drops Build a Rocket, Boys!.
    • "Grounds for Divorce" does the same with The Seldom Seen Kid.
  • Always Save the Girl: "I have an audience with the Pope, and I'm saving the world at eight. But if she says she needs me, everybody's gonna have to wait."
  • Band of Relatives: Type 1 with Mark and Craig Potter.
  • Big Applesauce: "New York Morning".
  • Boléro Effect: "Grace Under Pressure", especially live. Also "One Day Like This" and "Open Arms".
  • Book Ends: "The Birds" is reprised near the end of Build a Rocket Boys!, with only vocals and an old man singing lead.
  • Epic Rocking: Build a Rocket Boys! has "The Birds", which tops Elbow's previous record for longest track ("Newborn"). It's also the opening track on the album. These guys are known for taking their time.
    • Hell, the number of songs on each album that don't qualify for this trope could probably be counted on one hand.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Powder Blue" ends quite abruptly with the sound of glass breaking.
  • Face of a Thug: The bouncer in "Forget Myself".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • From "Newborn": "I'll be the corpse in your bathtub, useless..."
    • "Grounds For Divorce" is incredibly upbeat and catchy for being about drinking one's way out of a marriage.
    • The same goes for "Neat Little Rows" , which appears to be about a dying man's burial instructions.
      • "Neat Little Rows" was actually said in an interview with Q Magazine to be about Guy losing faith in the past.
  • Mexican Standoff: They named a song after this trope. It's about two men who want the same woman.
  • Oop North
  • Precision F-Strike: "Some Riot". Doubles as a Tear Jerker when you know what happened to the brother in question.
    • "Grace Under Pressure" also has one of these in a repeating loop in the last half of the song. It's easily missed, since it's being sung by a crowd at an Elbow concert.
    • "Presuming Ed (Rest Easy)" may contain their earliest one.
  • Scare Chord: "Starlings" seems imperceptibly quiet at first, and then BANG!!! More of an awestruck surprise than a genuine scare, but you get the idea.
    • Also, the distortion in "Snooks (Progress Report)" can be unsettling for some at first.
  • Take That!: The title track from Leaders of the Free World addresses a Commander-in-Chief and states, "Passing the gun from father to feckless son." Hmmm, wonder who that could be about?
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: "The Fix". Also, "Don't Mix Your Drinks" is a warning against such activity.
    • "The Fix" is said to be more about the act of fixing a horse race and then retiring early. ("The redoubtable beast has had pegasus pills, we'll buy him the patch in the Tuscany hills and the Vino di Vici will flow like a river in spring")
  • Teens Are Monsters: "Lippy Kids" subverts this trope by portraying adolescence in a sympathetic light, with the singer reflecting on his own teenage years and how golden those days were.
  • Textless Album Cover: Inverted. The Noisebox's cover is nothing but text.