Elbow’s Guy Garvey fancies himself a man of importance on The Seldom Seen Kid. That is, a man of importance capable of being stopped dead in his tracks “in the street like a sleepwalking teenager,” as he says on “The Bones of You,” by a woman—and not even a woman, but the mere thought or memory of one. He’s got an appointment to save the world at eight o’clock on “An Audience with the Pope” and sacking Gordon Brown is on his to-do list on “Starlings,” a glorious opening track that announces itself with a series of regal horn stabs, but the girl who’s “the only thing in any room” is his kryptonite. It’s no surprise that a man who recognizes and values the kind of music that can reach its tentacles out through a doorway and transport him “five years ago and 3,000 miles away” could ably compose songs as utterly romantic as “Weather to Fly” or ones as intellectually complex. “Mirrorball” paints a beautiful picture (“We made the moon our mirrorball/The streets an empty stage/The city sirens violins”), but it’s the rare instance on Kid where the arrangement is actually more sentimental than the lyrics, and it could have benefited from a less lush and more experimental production. Though the album’s most overt trait is tenderness, the hetero-waltz “The Fix” (featuring Richard Hawley on vocals) and the Zeppelin-esque “Grounds for Divorce” provide a certain masculine muscle, making Kid feel like a male sibling of the Cardigans’ equally exquisite Long Gone Before Daylight. And love of one’s “mate” provides the emotional center for “Some Riot” and “Friend of Ours” (in this case, close friend and musician Bryan Glancy, the seldom seen kid referenced in the album’s title who died in 2006). Sandwiched between those two very different piano ballads is the orchestral “One Day Like This,” which, though it has the potential to become a “Bittersweet Symphony”-sized hit, didn’t require a ripped-off Stones sample and works best as a jubilant coda to the sorrow that precedes it.
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