In Cast of Thousands, Elbow lead singer and lyricist Guy Garvey has hit his band with an extra dose of Prozac, departing from the haunting lyrics of the band”s first album, Asleep In The Back. Now, it must be understood that Elbow has by no means entered the realm of Hilary Duff and the Disney Channel: The music remains moody and dark, but the band seems to have lost the chip on its shoulder.
Cast begins with ‘Ribcage,’ borrowing the sing-along appeal of Blur”s ‘Tender’ by employing the London Community Gospel Choir. Although it”s all been heard before, it”s difficult not to sing along, ‘And when the sunshine / Throwin” me a lifeline / Finds its way into my room / All I need is you.’
As the album moves along, the songs are held together by the band”s ability to create emotion through sparse arrangements. ‘Fallen Angel’ is one of the few high paced moments and its churning guitars and pounding drums temporarily awaken the listener from the lethargic haze of the album. ‘Not a Job’ is the most chilling track on the album: Garvey”s singing draws comparisons to Nick Drake and the song is clearly his best vocal work. ‘Grace Under Pressure’ is the band”s crowning achievement, with amazing drumming, a catchy melody, the gospel choir, Jimi Goodwin of Doves, and Alfie; the band has pulled out all the stops on this track. The song ends with the crowd of the Glastonbury music festival in 2002 singing, ‘We still believe in love so fuck you.’ It doesn”t get much better than that.
The album was expertly produced by Ben Hiller who allowed the music to breathe, giving space to each instrument. The album”s main downfall is its lack of originality. Everything on Cast seems to have been done before, but Elbow”s strong musical sense helps them to get away with being derivative. Aside from ‘Grace Under Pressure,’ most tracks aren”t singularly impressive. Elbow has crafted a very strong album that only seems to be lacking in the singles department.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.