Despite being in their twelfth year, you could be forgiven for not knowing who Elf Power are. After flirting briefly with the UK music scene back in 2000 with third album A Dream In Sound which capitalised on the public's sudden fascination with the Flaming Lips, the three albums that followed showed promise yet ultimately fell short. With Back To The Web being released through the now Warner-owned Rykodisc, Elf Power's profile could well be on the up, but frustratingly the seventh album suffers from that same lack of presence as its immediate predecessors.
Entirely self-produced and written under the influence of middle-eastern gypsy songs, Back To The Web mixes this with Mercury Rev-style psychedelic indie, owing a huge debt to folk music on the whole. Songwriter and vocalist Andrew Rieger’s voice is a cross between Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch, Feargal Sharkey and Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, as well as displaying the latter’s poetic lyricism.
Put back to back with what probably bears the closest resemblance to material from their A Dream In Sound days - the B&S-esque, tweely-delivered and country-tinged 'Peel Back The Moon, Beware!' - it is evident that the Elf Power of old may not have been as adventurous in sound, but their pop leanings meant instantly accessible songs, something which Back To The Web lacks. This is not necessarily a downfall - the problem is more a lack of variety as most of the twelve tracks merge into one song, sharing largely the same tempo and identical feel. Cruelly, the excellent opening track 'Come Lie Down With Me' promises much in its gypsy-influenced two minutes, yet its wistful arrangement and ghostly feel ("In the dream I was older and I sat on a bench in the park/you came up from the ground and you followed me into the dark") is barely matched throughout the rest of the album. Once the first few songs are over there’s little else to grab your attention before the end is reached.
That’s not to say Back To The Web doesn’t deserve a place in your heart. The arrangement of 12-string acoustic guitars and assorted string instruments have the ability to envoke an ample helping of goosebumps given a summer’s day and a light breeze, but it is all too easily consigned to background music if you stop paying attention, and at thirty-five minutes it's quite easy to miss altogether if you're not paying proper attention. Perhaps it will be eighth time lucky for Elf Power.
6ben marwood's Score