Build a Rocket Boys!
By Eileen Tilson
In the fourth land discovered in the famous Gulliver’s Travels, the Houyhnhnms (horses) are the rulers of the land, and are also the keepers of the savage Yahoos (humans). In their language “Houyhnhnms” means “the perfection of nature.” Houyhnhnms value reason beyond all else. They are wholly governed by it. And because there is no such thing as passion and self-interest among the Houyhnhnms, there is no such thing as dispute, doubt, opinions, argument. There is a direct connection and value to art and nature. The atmospheric English band, Elbow, could very easily be the national composers for this land. On their fifth studio album Build a Rocket Boys!, Elbow are back to remind their fans while they are still going strong after 20 years.
This is of course not new for Elbow, the only band in NME history to have four consecutive 9/10 album reviews, and regarded as a “national treasure” by The Guardian. The music is not glamorous, no massive guitar riffs, or pounding drums, but instead Build a Rocket Boys! is filled with the sonic nirvana that Elbow has so clearly come to define themselves. The music has a physical pulse, beating through each track, with Garvey’s voice gliding like blood through the veins. The band found themselves returning to their spiritual home, the Big Room at Salford’s Blueprint Studios, where The Seldom Seen Kid and Leaders of the Free World were recorded. Adding to their collection of musical instruments, including an organ bought from a local social club, that leads the charge on “Lippy Kids,” the band settled down to a recording schedule with keyboardist Craig Potter once again in the producer’s chair.
Lyrically poignant and warm, Elbow makes strong statements without being reactionary. Opening with “The Birds” Guy Garvey soars through his orchestra of sound singing, “What are we gonna do with you/ Same tale every time/What are we gonna do with you/Come on inside/Looking back is for the birds.” The heaviest song on the album “Neat Little Rows,” starts out with cutting guitars before diving into the glittery chorus, “Lay my bones in cobblestones/ Lay my bones in neat little rows.”
The 11 songs that made its final mark on the album, are a collection of other worldly hymns. Guy Garvey chants like an oracle from another land transporting his followers to Nirvana, even if for 51 minutes.