On Pondering Elbow and Atheism

Here’s a question. Is Guy Garvey (or someone else from Elbow) an atheist?

I love Elbow, as long time readers of this blog know. (For previous posts on the subject, click here.) What brought this question to mind — what are the religious proclivities of the Mancunian five? — was my recent and ongoing search for Elbow promo CDs. After finding the “Not a Job” promo, I added two different “Open Arms” promos (the US version with the radio edit and the UK version with an instrumental version) to my collection thanks to eBay, and then I discovered a listing for a CD by a band named Long-View.

Long-View is a Mancunian shoegaze band, and in 2003 Elbow remixed one of their songs, “Further.” I found a Long-View promo CD on eBay with Elbow’s remix of “Further,” but then found it was much cheaper to buy a double-CD of the band’s debut album, Mercury, which had the Elbow remix (and several other remixes, including one by Mogwai) on the second disc.

But first, what was this song, “Further”? I’d never heard of it, though it was apparently played on the soundtrack of an episode of One Tree Hill. Fortunately, YouTube came in handy:

It’s a rather catchy song, isn’t it? While I don’t hold with the religious sentiment of the song’s emotional climax — “God’s love will save our light, and we’ll come shining bright. God’s love will save our sun, and thy will be done. God’s light will save us.” — I think the emotional catharsis there is what makes the song. It simply wouldn’t be the same song without it.

So, the Elbow remix of “Further” completely dispenses with the song’s emotional climax. It starts with a percussive beat and a cello riff that wouldn’t be out of place in a Collective Soul song, then layers stripped down verses over some keyboards and some feedbacky guitar, and then repeats the “Until we come. Further, further” phrase over and over and over, as if it’s building to something. Only then the song just stops. The build-up is all for naught. There’s no climax. There’s no catharsis. The remix feels unfinished.

My reaction was, “Really? Elbow did this? Really?” Imagine me crinkling my nose. Suffice it to say, it’s a lesser piece in the Elbow canon.

The song’s catharsis, as I mentioned above, is god, god, and more god. When remixing the song, could Elbow have dispensed with the song’s ending because it didn’t fit with one of the band’s personal beliefs?

Naturally, I began to ponder if, perhaps, Guy Garvey were an atheist.

I feel like I’ve read an interview with the Garv where he talked religion, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. So maybe I just imagined it, and Garvey is actually a staunch supporter of the Church of England.

The truth is, I don’t really know. But this song, it’s gone and lodged the idea in there, and I can’t dislodge it, that someone in Elbow is a godless heathen, much like myself.

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