The spring of Elbow has begun. “Neat Little Rows,” the first single from Build a Rocket, Boys! released today.
And, like a crack-addicted monkey, I had to download the song.
Oh, I’ve seen the video the band released in January:
I’ve even used some audio jiggery-pokery to get a listenable mp3 from the video’s audio track. But, naturally, I had to have the real version of the song.
It’s not even the first song from Build a Rocket, Boys! that the band has previewed in a video; that honor goes to “Lippy Kids,” which debuted on Boxing Day. Nor is it the last; yesterday, “Jesus is a Rochdale Girl” made its debut on The Guardian‘s website, a teaser for today’s profile of the band.
Build a Rocket, Boys! is Elbow’s first studio album since the Mercury Prize-winning album, The Seldom Seen Kid. Chances are you’ve heard at least one of the songs from the album — “One Day Like This” turns up a lot, “Grounds for Divorce” was the soundtrack to the season six House promo, and “The Bones of You” has received radio airplay on this side of the Pond. After fifteen years of being a working band and one of music’s best-kept secrets, The Seldom Seen Kid brought Elbow — justly — to the masses. The title, Build a Rocket, Boys!, comes from a line in “Lippy Kids” that I always mishear as “Build a rocking horse,” which is the kind of poetically inscrutable lyric that Guy Garvey typically writes.
The single — “Neat Little Rows” and “Ticker Tape” — was up for download on the UK iTunes store and Amazon UK’s website. I decided to see if I could order it from Amazon UK, and at first things went swimmingly. Amazon let me put the songs in my basket, it even recognized that I had the Amazon MP3 Downloader installed. But then it told me I couldn’t buy the songs due to geographic restrictions.
Bugger that, I said. There has to be a workaround.
Proxy servers! It took a half an hour of experimentation, and eventually I found a proxy server that worked. I had to give Amazon UK a UK-based shipping address, even though nothing was actually shipped, so I put in the address of my company’s London offices. (Since I do communicate with them on a regular basis, I saw nothing wrong with this.) The proxy server did mung things up a mite — Amazon couldn’t recognize that I had the downloader installed — but I scrolled down the page and told it that I did, and then the download started right up.
Three minutes later, I had the two songs from the “Neat Little Rows” single.
A lot of work for ten minutes of music. It was totally worth it.
If you’ve watched the “Neat Little Rows” video, the single version is the same — until about the three minute mark. The video runs 3:51 in length, the single runs 5:39 in length, and there’s a middle section of the song that the video doesn’t even hint at.
“Neat Little Rows” is a sonic attack song that reminds me of some of Leaders of the Free World‘s rockingest numbers, like the title track or “Mexican Standoff.” It’s a catchy number, and when it reaches the middle section of the song, which the video doesn’t have, it goes off into the stratosphere with an aetherial Garvey vocal.
The b-side, “Ticker Tape,” hearkens back to Elbow’s proggy roots. It’s a noisy song, and, honestly, it reminds me of some of The White Stripes’ work. Because of the “noise” (I almost want to say “Ticker Tape” is a pioneering song in the burgeoning “Grunge Prog” genre), I’m not entirely sure what Guy Garvey is trying to say. There’s some flamenco-style guitar work, there’s someone knocking on a door, and then a heavily distorted vocal comes floating it from somewhere distant. And then it goes loud and proggy and grungy. There’s seriously interesting instrumentation from the rest of the band, especially on keyboards and percussion. Elbow is just a really tight band, and I can’t imagine any of the songs working anywhere near as well without all five pieces.
As I said, it was a lot of work to download this single. It’s Elbow, though, and that makes all the difference in the world. Because I’m a crack-addicted monkey, y’know.
The album, Build a Rocket, Boys!, drops in a little more than a week in the UK, but not until mid-April in the US. Because I’m an impatient little bugger, I’ve ordered the UK album from HMV, and hopefully I’ll have it before too long.
This is shaping up to be a fantastic spring for music. There’s already a new Radiohead album. Eisley has a new album, The Valley, out this week. Beady Eye (or, as I jokingly refer to them, “Oasis 2.0”) has their debut album out this week, too. There’s a new Carbon Leaf live album due out sometime shortly, and The Leisure Society’s follow-up to The Sleeper is due in May.
But, of course, it’s Elbow and Build a Rocket, Boys! I am most looking forward to.
Or, as I like to think of it… “Build a rocking horse!” :h2g2: