During the course of its making, The Take Off and Landing of Everything became a break-up album. The romantic split happened to Elbow frontman Guy Garvey who decamped to New York to lick his wounds, altering the lyrics he’d written for the album to reflect his new situation.
The resulting album, Elbow’s sixth, has a suspended, weightless feel to it, opening with “This Blue World” – a beautifully scored seven-minute reverie about flying across the Atlantic at night, Garvey looking out the window at “all the world soaking up its sleep”, reflecting about the ending of the relationship. Typically anxious to find the good in things, though not always in himself, he displaces any anger into other themes: “Charge” is a proggy, gothic account of a middle-aged man’s Dutch courage, “electric with a bottle in me”, but self-loathing afterwards.
The music throughout is subtle and involved, throbbing minimalist rhythms coexisting with flourishes reminiscent of the band’s hero Peter Gabriel. Garvey’s yearning for consolation tips into triteness on “New York Morning”, a cliché-ridden portrait of the city as a place of endless possibility (“Oh my giddy aunt, New York can talk, it’s the modern Rome” etc), but by the time we reach the title track’s shimmering psychedelic mantra the lapse is forgotten.
The Take Off and Landing of Everything