Elbow frontman and BBC 6Music radio presenter Guy Garvey has recently announced the details of his highly-anticipated debut solo album ‘Courting the Squall’. He describes the album as “purely a vanity project”, orchestrated with an assembly of his musician friends from outside the Elbow brotherhood. The result, at least on the album’s lead single ‘Angela’s Eyes’, is a very different sound to what Elbow fans have become accustomed to over the band’s 20-plus years, and a refreshing change of pace for Garvey himself.
Here, Garvey has removed himself from the self-conscious, classically-oriented subtlety of Elbow, displaying a raw visceral energy that carries through from the very beginning of the track straight through to the end. ‘Angela’s Eyes’ opens with a heavy, tribal sounding drum beat and a dirty guitar riff that are akin to the more rhythm-centered style adopted by Jez and Andy Williams when they separated from Doves to form side project Black Rivers. The song’s pounding beat is staggered and uneven, but in an organic and instinctual sort of way, as opposed to the deliberately off-kilter rhythm in Elbow’s recent track ‘And It Snowed’. The brash opening guitar riff punctuates the song’s aggressive lyrical tone, growing to a primitive wail between the verses and in the faintly jazz-tinged harmonies of the instrumental coda.
Along with shaking off the elegant self-restraint of Elbow’s typical fare, Garvey has apparently also shaken off the mantle of writing about his recent lost love, which was the thematic focus of Elbow’s 2014 LP ‘The Takeoff and Landing of Everything’ and continued onto their recent ‘Lost Worker Bee’ EP. ‘Angela’s Eyes’ speaks of salvation through a new love, as Garvey spits the rapid-fire lyrics of its first chorus, “tried faith in humanity, no no no no no / but it sure made a man of me, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah / I was headed for an early grave until I washed up on the tide / yes, I believe in Angela’s eyes”. His voice is as silky smooth and velvety soft as ever, but he seems less concerned with its lyricism as he delves into inspired improvisation near the end of the track.
With ‘Angela’s Eyes’, Garvey has shed the image of the scholarly composer, ripping his shirt open (figuratively!) and baring his unbridled passion in a way that he never could have done within the refined context of Elbow’s celebrated oeuvre. This track is a tantalising first taste of what has the potential to be a remarkable debut solo effort, albeit one more than 20 years in the making.
‘Angela’s Eyes’ is the lead single from Guy Garvey’s upcoming solo album ‘Courting the Squall’, which is due for release on the 30th of October via Polydor Records. Garvey will support the album release with a December tour of the UK and Ireland.