Album Review: Elbow – ‘Lost Worker Bee’

Elbow are currently involved in the making of a number of side projects as the band is supposedly in downtime. Then out of nowhere a few days ago they announced a new EP (many early Elbow releases were EP’s) and it seems another may well follow soon…

This one takes on their hometown city centre as its subject. Manchester, so much to answer for. The Worker bee has been a Manchester symbol since the Industrial Revolution, a symbol of the graft and productivity of the city through this era.

Title track and opener Lost Worker Bee opens with a bustling busier beat than the group have employed on many recent releases. The lyric speaks of distance and home being where the heart (and the girl) is. It evokes brass bands, yet there’s a modern undercurrent and the business of a city centre is brought to life musically. It might not be as uplifting as One Day Like This but there’s an optimism present that the band don’t always present.

Elbow’s Guy Garvey

Elbow’s Guy Garvey

And It Snowed has a sort of electro-pop undercurrent, a lively pace and a simple lyric. Apart the fact that it’s clearly snowing, I’m not too sure what it’s about, maybe reflecting on a friends funeral on the way home through the city?

Roll Call has a very Mancunian feel to it, evoking a modern take on Joy Division bonded to a wonderful Eno-esque chorus. It recounts a possibly drunken tumble through the city, taking in the sights, sounds and smells whilst trying to locate a presumably also inebriated friend. Yet it’s still upbeat and pretty joyous sounding. There’s a lot more life in all of this than recent Elbow recordings.

Then, as soon as it all began, closing track Usually Bright glides in. The most downbeat offering here as Manchester is left behind after a lonely last night stay in a city centre hotel. It’s simple, sad and it holds your attention way more than a downbeat Elbow have managed to do so on anything since the The Seldom Seen Kid. It’s all very fragile and beautiful.

The band, in their own press for this release, proclaim it as one of their proudest releases… and so it should be! I wish a whole album was based around the sessions that produced this EP. They’ve not sounded this complete or confident since winning the Mercury Music Prize with the aforementioned Seldom Seen Kid. There’s no sign of a physical release – you can buy it on iTunes or stream it on Spotify or Apple Music, (it is 2015, only dinosaurs like me seemingly want a product in their hands). I urge you to do so. One of their best.

Author – Ian, Romford store