Elbow - Asleep In The Back

You wouldn't believe just how much Elbow have done for the Manchester music scene. Long before Badly Drawn Boy and Twisted Nerve were the household names they are today, it was always Elbow that everyone used to whisper about quietly. They were the band that got the trendy London posers looking back up North again. However with each success comes the hard times and what we are left with in Manchester now is similar to the aftermath Oasis left a few years back - the difference is everyone now wants to pick up an acoustic guitars and be mildly sensitive (while still keeping that Manc attitude, of course).

Elbow are slightly different. they actually hail from Bury which for everyone up North is about as exciting as a slap in the face with a wet fish. Home to a Bus Station, a market and very little else its easy to see why the Elbow guys are a little on the gloomy side. A lifeline came when the Metrolink first opened and the guys could travel with ease to the significantly more exciting city of Manchester where they basically lived the low-life in the likes of The Roadhouse and the Night & Day. Numerous gigs, an ill-fated deal with Island Records and the rest is history.

"Asleep In The Back" is an uneasy album to listen to, but once you pass the pain barrier you'll discover a treasure trove. Like Northern gloom merchants Joy Division before them Elbow are an acquired taste, not that they sound a jot like Ian Curtis and co. Elbow have their own sound beneath all the derogatory Radiohead comparisons and its only on the debut album that you realize this. Previous singles "New Born" and "Any Day Now" are perhaps the most commercial moments but the likes of "Scattered Black And Whites" and "Red" more than match them.

After seeing the band play several times over the past year its a surprise to see them transform an absolutely diabolical live show into "Asleep In The Back". While being far from being a perfect album it offers a hope for the future which can't necessarily be found in recent albums by Alfie or Andy Votel. Manchester is back on the up with local bands such as The Cardinals and Stephen Nancy hot on the heals of these guys.

Alex McCann