Asleep in the Back

Although Manchester, England-based Elbow has certain stylistic traits in common with U.K.

Although Manchester, England-based Elbow has certain stylistic traits in common with U.K. rock colleagues Doves and Coldplay, the group's debut, Asleep in the Back, boasts a wealth of distinctive qualities that have made it a critical fave abroad. Foremost is Guy Garvey's elegantly husky voice, which is the centerpiece of the mournful piano ballad "Powder Blue" and the bittersweet, acoustic closer, "Scattered Black and Whites." The band's collective songwriting skills impress frequently, particularly on "Newborn," a 71/2 minute epic that explodes into cathartic torrents of sound. Indeed, Elbow's ability to stretch a wide range of emotions over lengthy, multi-faceted songs demands repeat listens for such cuts as the Beta Band-ish "Any Day Now" and the more aggressive "Bitten by the Tail Fly," which recalls the late, great psychedelic flourishes of the Verve. An accomplished debut that bodes well for Elbow's fortunes on these shores.—JC
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