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>The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow

24 February, 2010 1 comment

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Elbow kind of passed me by for a long time – I’d heard some stuff and kind of passed them off as another dour bunch of near-Mancs churning out identikit medium-paced tunes of no real substance.  Pleasant enough, but not really for me.

That view changed dramatically, one early evening in Suffolk in July 2008, when I saw them live for the first time, performing the bulk of this album.  Another band who played with joy and passion and brought their material to life – culminating, of course, in a mass singalong to one of the centrepieces of the album, ‘One Day Like This’.

After that, I took the album seriously and slowly discovered an album suffused with passion, regret, love and – that word again – joy, that lodged itself amongst my all time favourites quickly and easily.

So who is/was The Seldom Seen Kid?  He was Bryan Glancy, musician-about-town in Manchester, drinking buddy of the band who died suddenly in 2006.  The album is dedicated to his memory, and the closing track, ‘Friend of Ours’, is a moving tribute to him, that perfectly captures the awkwardness of bluff heterosexual Northerners clumsily trying to express affection (“Never very good at goodbyes, so – gentle shoulder charge – love you mate”).

But the album is on no way mawkish, including some beautiful love songs in Starlings (“You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in”), The Bones of You and Mirrorball.  Grounds For Divorce (opening with another reference to Glancy) adds some grit to the album, with a stunning bass line…and of course, the best ‘festival song’ written for many a year, the aforementioned ‘One Day Like This’.

Ironically, the officially released album may not be the best version.  A year after release, the band went into Abbey Road Studios to record the album live, with the BBC Concert Orchestra and a full choir.  The songs, partially orchestrated on the original album, lend themselves well to full orchestration, giving the album even more polish and depth.

To have one version of a great album should be enough.  To have two brilliant readings of the album is just being spoilt.

So – The Seldom Seen Kid.  One album like this a year’ll see me right.

Categories: Elbow

>Day 49: Football frenzy…

>Today’s soundtrack: Elbow – Asleep in the Back

Quiet day in today, mainly spent slouched in front of the telly watching the football. Firstly the Reading – Birmingham game, one of a series of games that would decide the final promotion/playoff places from the Championship. Birmingham eventually took it at a canter, confirming their automatic promotion and Reading’s place in the playoffs. Elsewhere, it was nice to see both Preston and Burnley getting through to the playoffs – both clubs I have a lot of time for. Real football clubs, from real footballing towns with a long tradition and clubs that deserve a spell back in the big time.

At the other end of the table, it was a shame to see Norwich being relegated. I lived in Norwich for four years back in the ’80s and went to Carrow Road a fair bit, so again have a soft spot for the club. Hopefully they’ll be back up with the big(ger) boys again soon.

All of this was of course just a starter for the main event, Everton visiting Sunderland at the ‘Stadium of Light’ (who thought that was a good idea?) in a game that meant little for Everton other than an opportunity to reinforce a fifth/sixth place finish, but which was an important opportunity for Sunderland to get the points that would ease their relegation worries.

Despite there being so much more at stake for Sunderland, they lacked any degree of urgency and after a rather lacklustre first half that Everton probably edged, an early goal in the second half from the tireless and inventive Stephen Pienaar and a second from Marouane Fellaini turned the game into a stroll for Everton. A welcome three points that might just give us a second consecutive fifth place finish, and a matchwinning performance from Pienaar that might just have been his best game in an Everton shirt.

Busy with the breadmaker again today, my own inventiveness involving a ‘Tomato Focaccia‘ loaf that incorporated passata, olives and sundried tomatoes into a standard bread mix. And very nice it was too, served alongside the evening’s spaghetti bolognese. Not sure I’d fancy it toasted and spread with marmalade though….

Stayed up late to complete ‘The Longest Journey’ on the PC. A nice looking game but possibly a bit ‘linear’ for my tastes. Be interesting to see whether Dreamfall, the sequel, is an improvement and how well it builds on the original plot. Will let you know…

Elbow on the soundtrack today. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my absolute love for this band – albeit a love that crept up on me slowly. I’d had a couple of albums for a while and not really given them the attention they merited. It was really their performance at Latitude last year that made me realise what a fine, fine band they are and just how good their latest album (The Seldom Seen Kid) is.

Today we’ve got their first album, ‘Asleep at the Back’ on the go, and I’m still staggered I didn’t realise immediately just how good an album this one is as well. Newborn, Powder Blue and Scattered Black and Whites are all immense tracks, but there’s hardly a weak track on the album.

For some reason most of Elbow’s back catalogue seems to be on permanent sale at ridiculously low prices at the moment – so I urge you to get out there and invest. You’ll not go far wrong.

Here they are performing ‘Newborn’ at the Lowlands festival last year. Beautiful.

>Day 18: New career paths beckon…

2 April, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go

Well, maybe new career paths beckon. Wish they would.

Firstly, off to Tesco this morning to stock up on flour, yeast etc so I could try out the new toy. All seems very easy – get your measurements right, chuck everything in the bowl, sort out your settings and stand back for four hours. And four hours later, open up and out pops a loaf of bread. So take a look at this bad boy…

Still cooling, so I can’t tell you what it tastes like, but it looks and smells divine. Feels like a winner to me!

While the bread was cooking, I needed some lunch and was under orders to use up the smoked salmon that had reached its ‘eat by’ date. Normally, we eat our smoked salmon on top of scrambled eggs on toast, but I couldn’t be bothered doing scrambled eggs for one. So I tried something different – a smoked salmon and mushroom omelette. And I was glad I did!

So for future reference – slice a handful of mushrooms and fry in some butter until they turn colour and soften. Beat three eggs in a jug with some salt and black pepper, and add to the pan with the mushrooms and cook gently to set the bottom of the omelette. Slice your smoked salmon into long, thin strips and add to the pan. Continue to cook gently until the egg sets and the salmon begins to turn colour. If necessary, put the pan under a hot grill to set the top. Fold, turn out onto a warm plate and serve. Easy. I toyed with putting some cheese in but it really didn’t need it – it would have distracted from the subtle taste of the salmon. A touch of lemon juice might have been nice but I decided against – you might want to experiment though! No pictures I’m afraid – it didn’t last long enough!

Oh, the loaf just cooled enough for me to cut, so had a quick sample with some strawberry jam. Oh yes. Oooooh yes.

Best stop eating now, steak and chips tonight so need to leave some room.

So career path one – celebrity chef? Hmmmm…

Or I could follow in the footsteps of my son, and become a music journalist. Well, I got my name in print today, so why not? Follow this link for the evidence – but be aware it’s only up there for a week. I’ve blogged once or twice already about Amsterdam, but they remain one of my favourite bands – and are criminally underrated (and overlooked) by the mainstream music media. They are a great live band – and a great bunch of people as well. This is Matt and me with Ian Prowse, the band’s lead singer, at Glastonbury last year. Who looks the most starstruck do you think? And no, I hadn’t shaved for six days. And the beads? Because I can, folks.

One of my favourite albums of the past few years is ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ by Elbow. The album has just been released in a live version, re-recorded at Abbey Road with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Just watched the DVD of the performance that comes with the album – and they’ve made a great album even better. Elbow have been operating for a number of years just below the radar, but in the last twelve months they’ve really started to hit the bigtime, with some big festival performances, winning the Mercury and also being voted Best British Band at the Brits. Again, a great bunch of blokes who deserve all the success they get.

I’d be delighted if Amsterdam could break through in the same way – Elbow demonstrate that perseverence (and a stonking set of songs) can find you a way through the hype and bullshit that surrounds the music business. Sometimes the good guys do win!

Nice to listen to the Manics while I’m typing this. ‘Everything Must Go’ was their ‘breakthrough’ album, the first released after the dark and harrowing ‘Holy Bible’, and their first as a trio following the ‘disappearance’ of Richey Edwards. Everything Must Go is a fine album, although lacking the rough edges that made The Holy Bible a classic. A Design For Life is, by any standards, a great song, with one of the best opening lines (“Libraries gave us power, then work came and made us free”) a hit single could have. After a short spell in the mainstream, the Manics seem to have retreated back into a less accessible place but sound none the worse for it.

Finally thanks to all of you who have sent messages – either on the blog, or directly – about Katy Teabag. We appreciate your thoughts and kind words, it really does help to know that people care – that they do ‘get it’ as I put it yesterday.