They were first signed to Ugly Man Records, and released two EPs, including the infamous Noisebox. After a bit, "Asleep in the Back" was released. It gained critical acclaim, but had the misfortune of poor sales.
Two years later, Cast of Thousands came out. It's recording sessions nearly caused the band's breakup. The "Elle and Bo" incident didn't help. It's generally accepted that's it's not the band's best. After another two years, Elbow produced Leaders of the Free World, a tribute to their hometown. To this day it's a fan favourite, sometimes surpassing their monumental next record.
The Seldom Seen Kid was released in early 2008, to critical and, for the first time, commercial success. A loose concept album, it's dedicated to Bryan Glancy, a close friend of the band.
In March 2011, they released Build A Rocket Boys! It was deliberately made to not alienate earlier fans, but also has a distinctly different sound from former albums. As usual, critical opinion is overwhelmingly positive.
- Guy Garvey: Lead singer. Loves birdwatching.
- Pete Turner: Bassist. Plays microKORG.
- Richard Jupp: Drummer. Bald.
- Mark Potter: lead guitarist, backing vocals. Big version of sibling...
- Craig Potter: Keyboardist. Produced The Seldom Seen Kid and Build a Rocket Boys!
- Always Save the Girl: "I have an audience with the Pope, and I'm saving the world at eight. But if she says she needs me, everybody's gonna have to wait."
- Bolero Effect: "Grace Under Pressure", especially live. Also "One Day Like This" and "Open Arms".
- Book Ends: "The Birds" is reprised near the end of Build a Rocket Boys!, with only vocals and an old man singing lead.
- Epic Riff "Grounds For Divorce".
- Epic Rocking: Build a Rocket Boys! has "The Birds", which tops Elbow's previous record for longest track ("Newborn"). It's also the opening track on the album. These guys are known for taking their time.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- From "Newborn": "I'll be the corpse in your bathtub, useless..."
- "Grounds For Divorce" is incredibly upbeat and catchy for being about drinking one's way out of a marriage.
- The same goes for "Neat Little Rows" , which appears to be about a dying man's burial instructions.
- "Neat Little Rows" was actually said in an interview with Q Magazine to be about Guy losing faith in the past.
- Oop North
- Precision F-Strike: "Some Riot". Doubles as a Tear Jerker when you know what happened to the brother in question.
- Scare Chord: "Starlings" seems imperceptibly quiet at first, and then BANG!!! More of an awestruck surprise than a genuine scare, but you get the idea.
- Also, the distortion in "Snooks (Progress Report)" can be unsettling for some at first.
- Take That: The title track from Leaders of the Free World addresses a Commander-in-Chief and states, "Passing the gun from father to feckless son." Hmmm, wonder who that could be about?
- Tampering with Food and Drink: "The Fix". Also, "Don't Mix Your Drinks" is a warning against such activity.
- "The Fix" is said to be more about the act of fixing a horse race and then retiring early. ("The redoubtable beast has had pegasus pills, we'll buy him the patch in the Tuscany hills and the Vino di Vici will flow like a river in spring")
- Textless Album Cover: Inverted. The Noisebox's cover is nothing but text.