The opening line of Elbow’s breakthrough hit was grotesque and intriguing in equal measure.
The songs that make you shiver and fall down to your knees. His words typically tell a story or make grand statements on love or heartbreak or somewhere in between. Even the most obscure and ordinary sceneries get a certain amount of dignity when Garvey sings about them.
Once—maybe twice—an album, the Manchester band will lose the orchestra and acoustic guitar and just go for it, something they do best on “Grounds for Divorce,” the lead single on The Seldom Seen Kid.
This article was originally published on Mar 5, 2014 but updated on January 16, 2017.
“I haven’t been myself of late / I haven’t slept for several days,” he sings, before adding, “But coming home I feel like I / Designed these buildings I walk by.” Later, he repeats, “I never know what I want but I know when I’m low that I / I need to be in the town where they know what I’m like and don’t mind.” Moving away from home can be scary, and adulthood can be stressful, but oftentimes, going home to see mom (“I haven’t seen my mum for weeks,” he admits) can be the best medicine. His voice has never sounded better, reaching towering heights as he sings, “‘Cause holy cow, I love your eyes / But only now I see the light / Yeah, lying with you half awake / Oh, anyway, it’s looking like a beautiful day,” perhaps doubly true when the “Throw those curtains wide / One day like this a year would see me right” refrain hits. But instead of harping on the “single heartbreak” and a relatively dire financial situation, he remains optimistic for the future, not yet allowing himself to define his life by what he has and doesn’t have: “And nothing to be proud of / And nothing to regret / All of that to make as yet.” It’s perhaps the most poetic thing Elbow has released to date—a beautiful and unadorned track that doesn’t try to be more than the sum of its parts, yet ends up becoming so much more on repeated reads of the lyrics.
‘We still believe in love so fuck you’ … It can’t get any better than this. A particularly Garv-ian take on romance, this slow-burning ballad sees him imploring his lover to stay with him, even when he’s old and a bit bonkers. Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves of this. Garvey, angry as ever, tells the story of an alcoholic drinking himself into a stupor on a weeknight: “Mondays is for drinking to the seldom seen kid.” But even when describing the downtrodden, Garvey still finds a way to incorporate beautiful phrases, depicting the protagonist’s inability to stay away from the local pub (“There’s a hole in my neighborhood / Down which of late I cannot help but fall”) and fix his relationship (“And I’d bring you further roses, but it does you no good”).
The song, which alternates between loud bursts of energy via a loud-as-hell horn section and downtempo acoustic grooves, resolves in one very lovely verse and string crescendo: “The violets explode inside me when I meet your eyes / And I’m spinning and I’m diving like a cloud of starlings… Darling, is this love?”. Even in black and white. No one can sell a line quite like Guy Garvey. Addressing the scourge of Brexit and a string of deaths that affected the band (including Garvey’s own father), there’s a certain rage in his voice that’s relatively unheard throughout their discography. “It got me into the musicality of words.” It’s a nigh on impossible task, but we’ve done our best to round up his 10 best lyrics. As clever as Nick Cave, as heartfelt as the late Scott Hutchison and as able to write as many emotional crescendos as Sigur Rós, Garvey’s in a league of his own.
Where else could a line like ‘Stockport supporters club kindly supplied us a choir’ work within such a highly emotional piece? Elbow love to kick things off with a bang on their lead singles (think: “Grounds for Divorce” or “Neat Little Rows”), and the first taste of 2019’s Giants of All Sizes was no exception.
Guy Garvey looks back on his childhood in this first album tearjerker, which sees him returning to his family home and reminiscing with a heavy heart. One that combines everyday elements with a certain lyrical beauty.
On “Jesus is a Rochdale Girl,” Garvey nearly whispers verses that paint a picture of a childhood in Rochdale, a town located within Greater Manchester.
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