Veteran U.K. alt-rock group Elbow is soaring high following the release of its fifth studio album, "Build a Rocket Boys!" (Fiction/Universal). It entered the U.K. albums chart at No. 2 with 78,000 first-week copies, according to the Official Charts Co., landing the band its highest chart entry.
The 11-track set mixes rich orchestration, anthemic-driven rock songs and nostalgic themes exploring childhood and growing up voiced by the bruised tenor of singer Guy Garvey. "Build" is the follow-up to 2008's "The Seldom Seen Kid," which won that year's Mercury Prize and has sold 818,000 copies in the band's home market, according to the OCC. "Seldom" went on to move more than 1 million units worldwide, according to Universal, while Elbow was named best British group at the 2009 BRIT Awards.
"With 'Seldom' we had some things that you just can't bank on," Fiction managing director Jim Chancellor says. "To win the Mercury Prize was out of the park. And then to win a BRIT-we never expected that. For an album to have that impact is pretty rare."
Nevertheless, Chancellor is confident the new album can build on the success of its predecessor and further expand the Manchester, England-based group's fan base. He credits the album's career-best chart entry to a major marketing campaign focused on billboard and print advertising, coupled with heavy press coverage. Support from such U.K. specialist radio stations as BBC 6 Music was also key to generating a strong first week, adds Chancellor, who admits to being disappointed that lead single "Neat Little Rows" wasn't playlisted at either of the United Kingdom's leading radio networks, top 40 station BBC Radio 1 and AC-formatted BBC Radio 2.
Video: Elbow, "Neat Little Rows"
"[They] were both goals we thought were achievable when we set out. So once those didn't happen, we had to concentrate on the specialist places that we knew we were going to get love from," says Chancellor, who's targeting a tightly plotted, 12-month international campaign. He calls "Build," produced by Elbow keyboardist Craig Potter, "an album of amazing songs, most of which don't traditionally fit as singles."
"All of us were a little concerned that maybe other members of the band would want to cash in on 'Seldom' and write a big, anthemic, hands-in-the-air album," bassist Pete Turner says. "But none of us did. And we didn't want to go left field and make an art-for-art's-sake album. It was almost written with the same ethics that we used for [2001 V2 debut album] 'Asleep in the Back.' It was going back to basics in a way... just business as usual."
"Build a Rocket Boys!" was released digitally in the United States on March 8, with a physical release set to follow April 12 on Co-Op/Downtown Records. Standout album track "Open Arms" -- also slated as the next U.K. single in April/May -- has been serviced to U.S. alternative formats. The group, published by Salvation Music/Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, will play Coachella on April 16, a date booked by the group's U.S. agent William Morris Endeavor. Further U.S. shows are likely to follow later in the year, Turner says.
Elbow -- whose lineup is rounded out by guitarist Mark Potter and drummer Richard Jupp -- wraps a 12-date arena tour in the United Kingdom on March 31. Booked by London-based X-Ray Touring, the trek includes two dates at London's 23,000-capacity O2 Arena. A full schedule of European festival dates is scheduled for summer.