Elbow - Cast of Thousands

Cast of Thousands


First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2004, Volume 11, #4

Written by John Metzger


Cast of Thousands, Elbow’s sophomore effort, begins with a series of electronic blips, which causes one to take pause and wonder if the band is another in an endlessly expanding line of Radiohead imitators. By the time the opening track Ribcage has drawn to its conclusion, however, one is assured that this is not the case. Granted, Cast of Thousands might not have evolved in quite the same way had Radiohead not unleashed upon the world the strange, freak-out mayhem of Kid A and Amnesiac, but Elbow’s soaring art-rock gambits do more than simply follow in Thom Yorke’s footsteps.

As it turns out, the aforementioned electronic blips simulate the sound of a heart monitor, providing the perfect introduction for a series of stream of consciousness musings about the nature of relationships. "I wanted to explode/to pull my ribs apart/and let the sun inside," sings Guy Garvey with equal doses of dejection and delight on Ribcage, only to add, "All you have is kisses/and all I need is you" as the music swirls about him and a gospel choir lifts him from his murky gloom.

Indeed, unlike Elbow’s debut, Cast of Thousands features as much hope, however guarded, as it does despair, and this shines through the group’s lyrics as well as its melodies. The word "intense" frequently comes to mind as guitars act as buzz saws and sounds frequently cascade and collide to create the textured soundscapes that envelop Garvey’s melancholy-drenched vocals. There are smatterings of Wilco, The Beatles, Spiritualized, R.E.M., Psychedelic Furs, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, and countless others kaleidoscopically drifting through the songs’ dream-filled ethers, and the symphonic wonderment of the arrangements builds big sounds out of intimate spaces. It’s enough to consider Cast of Thousands to be a minor masterpiece and to declare that Elbow is definitely a band worth watching. starstarstarstar

Cast of Thousands is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2004 The Music Box