Elbow’s eighth album comes wreathed in a ghostly pallor. Recorded over two years in which too many of the band’s friends and family passed away, the easy sentimentality of their biggest songs has been abandoned for something grittier, angrier and greyer. Giants of All Sizes is not an album to be filleted and squashed into playlists; it’s the sort of deeply serious and carefully crafted work that would sprout a beard and a cable-knit jumper if you turned your back on it for a second.
Several of these anti-anthems have intriguing codas and impressive ambition. Dexter & Sinister sets muscular guitar against delicate piano for several minutes, then collapses into operatic falsetto; the lovely On Deronda Road effortlessly swirls acoustic and electronic moods. Sometimes frontman Guy Garvey overwrites, overwrought: “Unstuck and the whole archipelago is rocking like a suicide pedalo at a high tide” is a particularly unlovely line. Solipsistic Grenfell lament White Noise White Heat muses blandly on the artist’s impotence in the wake of tragedy. But what survives is the gentle acceptance of Weightless, about losing his dad – simpler, and far more moving for it.
Elbow: Giants of All Sizes review – a grittier, angrier Guy Garvey