I first heard of the band Elbow through one of my cousins in the UK. He and his siblings and families and I reconnected in 2008, with my sweety-and-then-future-bride in tow (well, that’s perhaps another story: they said upon meeting her that they’d come to Canada to visit if we married, so we did, and some of them did). Before 2008, I first met my generation of our UK family in Liverpool in 1973. Thankfully, we’ve all seen each other several times since in Canada (or Canaderia as they affectionately call the country), England and Wales, and I look forward to my next chance to get up to “Welsh Wales” to taste my cousin’s lovely lamb roast.
At any rate, in one conversation some years back he implored me to check out the album, The Seldom Seen Kid (2008), calling it a “cracking” album (translation: it’s very, very good). A song on that album, “Mirrorball,” is a lovely tale of the writer walking in the night street to see his lover. It’s a piece of pure poetry, as are so many of Elbow’s compositions (many of their songs have five writers credited; they’re quite an amazing band in the way they work together to consistently create such beauty in their craft).
As an aside, the song reminds me so much of another work I’ve loved for years, “When You’re My Destination,” by a Canadian poet, (the since September 2019 late, as I only discovered when trying to find the title rather than getting up and looking where I last left the physical copy) Ian McCulloch, a favourite since I somehow was blessed to find a well-lived, second-hand copy of his poetry collection, Parables and Rain.
McCulloch’s poem is a rich illustration of walking in a late night drizzle, anticipating with the countdown of street numbers to when he reaches his lover’s home, where his wet clothes will be dripping from hangers. The volume also contains a wonderfully rambling piece that stirs up memories of long-ago, long-distance running days, “Running Cross Country.” If you’re in any way inclined toward poetry, I highly recommend that you seek out his work. Another volume, The Efficiency of Killers, contains a poem that is a vivid description of what happens in the detonation of a car bomb. McCulloch wrote in a magical way that I’ve often tried to mimic.
Well, I’ve managed so far to stay off-subject but these memories came while I was listening to today’s song. So, let’s get back to that…
In 2014, Elbow released The Take Off and Landing of Everything, a terrific and varied collection of tunes. “This Blue World” is the opening track on the album, and it sustains the same, slow pace throughout the song, like a fluffy cloud slowly floating across a deep blue summer sky, and it invites the listener to sit down for a while and enjoy the whole, ten-song set. The writing in “This Blue World” is magnificent:
“When all the world is sucking on its sleeve
You’ll hear an urgent Morse in the gentle rain
And if you plot your course on the window pane
You’ll see the coldest star in the arms of the oldest tree
And you’ll know to come to me”
(from “This Blue World,” by Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Guy Garvey, Peter Turner)
The beauty of the poetry, swaddled within the music, are so perfect and touching that they often make me feel I could weep when I sit listening intently — which of course is just me being present to it (which, incidentally is a 2020 intention; to be more present and appreciative). Elbow’s writing and lead singer Guy Garvey’s voice (yes, that Guy Garvey whom I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, and his program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, on BBC 6 Music!) are transcendent, yet easy to listen to. One cannot walk away from hearing one of their songs without having been touched by its beauty, humanity and vulnerability.
I am unsure exactly what the song is about; it ends with what seems like a hint of unrequited love. It may also be in homage to our planet, from which we can see the Moon and stars from the vantage point of laying in a bed by a window. But whatever its intended or interpreted meanings are, it’s a truly beautiful song. A “cracking” song.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Please enjoy.
Today’s post is dedicated to the earthly life of Ian McCulloch. “He has flown.”
Here’s the YouTube audio (not an official version):