Since I’ve found looking at other people’s lists interesting, here is mine.
Slightly surprised that Mansun aren’t too Brit-centric to be in Pitchfork’s database but Girls Aloud are, outside of their greatest hits. Don’t know if that means anything, though. I also had The Bluetones in an earlier draft (with Science & Nature) and they aren’t in the database either.
I’ve long thought of Asleep in the Back being my favourite album as something which will always be the case. Everything else that I would have thought the same about when I was 16 has eventually ended up being overturned by new artists that I felt even more strongly about though, so maybe not.
1000 times yes “Asleep In The Back”. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as an entryist album but if anyone asked me about Elbow, I would definitely point them towards AITB as a start-off point. “Powder Blue” and “Any Day Now” are the 2 stand out songs for me, with “Newborn” coming a close third. Guy Garvey just nails the “sensitive bloke” thing which I totally identify with.
I find this really interesting because ‘nails the sensitive bloke thing which I totally identify with’ is not how I think about Elbow at all. I rarely drink alcohol (or go out with other people who are drinking) and I don’t tend to have the kind of mate-y male friendships that Garvey has written about many times in recent years either.
There is an album in my top two which is there heavily on how much I identify with it, or at least want to identify with it. It’s (shy, self-analytical, not good with people, relates to life through music, not quite sure whether she’s really become a capable adult) Hello Saferide rather than Elbow.
I’m not going to deny that Elbow have Sensitive Bloke tendencies but Asleep in the Back is actually the least Sensitive Bloke of their albums. It doesn’t have the settled grace of later albums and is nowhere near as perfectly formed. It does have the thoughtful-guy-remembers-and-thinks-about-things of “Scattered Blacks and White” to end it on a beautiful and contended note but they go through hell to get there. The favourite tracks aren’t too far off mine but are a case in point - the seething dissatisfaction of “Any Day Now” and idea of fleeing a malevolent city that feels like it’s chasing right behind; “Powder Blue” and its violent smashed glass; even the acoustic love song of “Newborn” starts with ‘I’ll be the corpse in your bathtub’ and ends with howling noise.
I can’t relate to the drug-fuelled tragedies, the dark urban nightmares of “Little Beast” and the ‘cattlemarket cabaret’ of “Bitten by the Tailfly”, or to the scorned resentment of a ‘picket fence white 9-to-5’ in “Coming Second”. I definitely couldn’t relate to them when I was 16 and the album came out and became my favourite thing ever. I just found all of its songs incredibly exciting and moving in a way that nothing else was, and loved the idea that they were still able to find such poetry and beauty within the darkness. If anything, not being able to relate closely to it made it seem even deeper to me through contrast to my life.