Culled from singles that date back to 2001, a track from the EP Newborn ("None One"), and B-sides from 2011's well-received Build a Rocket Boys!, Dead in the Boot offers up a rare glimpse into the often insular song-building world of the Manchester outfit. Decidedly less bombastic and ornate than the majority of the band's more anthemic album offerings, Dead in the Boot is a quieter, more abstract affair that feels surprisingly autonomous. Elbow have always straddled the line between stadium-ready house band and a band that just wants to stay in the house, lock the doors, and be left alone to die, and it's the latter persuasion that informs the majority of the collection's 13 cuts. The brittle "Whisper Grass" leads things off in a decidedly mellow direction, but like many of the band's best moments, it recoils and strikes when the listener least expects it, spewing a sinewy stream of distorted venom around the two-minute mark that changes the whole timber of the song. Likewise, the brooding "McGreggor" coolly struts its bluesy swagger before allowing Guy Garvey to indulge in some "Grounds for Divorce"-inspired caterwauling, probably due in large part to the track's live setting. That said, the rest of Dead in the Boot barely moves the VU meter, choosing instead to occupy that creepy corner of the room where doubt, fear, shame, indulgence, and misplaced rage go to fester when the clock sneaks past two in the morning, the rain flirts with ice, and there's only a single, half-wet cigarette left in the pack.
Dead in the Boot Review
by James Christopher Monger