• Andy Wors

Hey Elbow - ‘We Three’ (album)


We wrote about a Hey Elbow single release a couple of month back, just before the release of the Swedish trio's album ‘We Three’, and the intervening time has given me the opportunity to really get to the know the album. Trust me, it really does take some time. Because whilst the album I wrote about last week by Red Barnett was pretty easy on the ear indie, ‘We Three’ has been written with a different approach, not to conform to genres, styles or stereotypes.


They’ve certainly achieved their objective, as it is a complex mix of sounds, and there’s no doubt that this will suit music lovers who really like to get their teeth into an album, rather than those who favourite simple ’playlists’. The album has an element of continuity to it that almost gives it a feel of one long composition, which I rather like. In fact I really like the whole thing, albeit with a reservation that the technical ingenuity and musical prowess sometimes outweighs their ability to squeeze memorable melodies into their songs.


But of course it’s not quite that type of album. Opening track ‘Missit’ demonstrates it all pretty clearly, extraordinary drum patterns, musical influences happily taken from across the world, atmospheric and thickly textured instrumentation, the depth and complexity of the sound if you really analyse is very different and interesting. And it shifts seamlessly into ‘Nurture / Aptitude’, which carries on in the same vein, albeit this time with a more coherent melodic structure to grasp on to, it’s a really effective track.


The highlight of ‘Vignette’ is undoubtedly those trumpets, which seem to be echoing across a jungle filled with all worldly creatures and plant life, whilst we reviewed pre-album single ‘Layers’ previously – not that Hey Elbow are the type of band to opt for ‘singles’ that much anyway.


But it’s ‘Fill Holes with Hope’ that is the centrepiece and highlight of the album for me, the vocals are delicate and will capture your attention, before a blaze of guitars and synths disrupts the natural balance, a searing call from the skies or from the depths of the earth – at least from somewhere anyway.

I like both the vocals and the glimpses of melody in ‘Eternal’, and although ‘Push’ is slightly indecipherable musically, ’Life Hack’ opens up with a most euphoric moment that makes all the scrambling up the hill seem worthwhile. It all ends with the typically complex and get haunting ‘Drainit’, with apparently outrageous time signature changes, and an overwhelming and almost exhausting musical climax. It’s pretty heady stuff.


David wrote last time that he found their interesting mix of styles ‘quite tasty’ and I definitely agree, but it’s also undoubtedly ‘quite chewy’ too, and the ice cream dessert course does seem to have been substituted with a bowl of Oxtail soup. Don’t get me wrong, I like Oxtail soup, just not so much after the Beef Wellington. I think you get the point.


But Hey Elbow are some band, and ‘We Three’ will take you on musical journey you probably won’t have experienced before, worldly in their influences yet almost unworldly in their musical visions. I certainly feel enriched by the album, inspired a little to expand the breadth of my musical listening boundaries, whilst in terms of Hey Elbow’s future musical journey, their boundaries are seemingly limitless.


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