Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

If your sixth album sounds similar to your first, and all that came between, is your band in a groove, or stuck in a rut? That question hangs over Elbow’s The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. There’s talk of different songwriting methods, but at the end of the day, this is the same lineup that started the band back in the late ‘90s, with all the members bringing to the table what they always have, recording in the same studios they used for their last two albums. The stability is starting to become a liability.

Everything’s tracks are mostly muted indie, gentle tones of drums, guitar and occasional brass melded together into a soft whole. Only rarely does the band attempt to loose their self-imposed leash to strive towards epic, as in album highlight ‘New York Morning’ and the penultimate title track. Frontman Guy Garvey has said the album was partly inspired by his dual homes in Manchester and New York, and travelling between them. That inspiration feels literal, with some tracks battling between their quiet, stoic, English and big, brash, American sides. The English side almost always wins out – this is a Manchester band after all.

I never feels as though any of the members are pushing their ability or stretching their talent, although Garvey’s voice is haunting as always. Everything’s mostly long tracks feel constructed from the ground up, rather than based on any particular standout rhythm or melody. They’re supposed to be quiet and contemplative, but sometimes this means they border on lifeless.

Elbow have made an album that’s mostly perfect for rainy Sundays, staring out into soft grey clouds, contemplating the human condition. This would be higher praise if that wasn’t already well-covered ground for them. Make no mistake – Everything tracks are consistently decent, occasionally great, and fans will find plenty to like here. The problem is, that’s well-covered ground too. Is their consistency a groove or a rut? To borrow a phrase, why can’t it be both?