Elbow’s “Lippy Kids” Lyrics Meaning

Most simply explained, what Guy Garvey and co. are doing on this song (“Lippy Kids”) is sympathizing with idle youth from the ‘hood. Elbow dropped this track around the time the British powers that be turned their attention to kids rockin’ hoodies, demonizing them and such. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Elbow's Lippy Kids at Lyrics.org.

Well Garvey, who is from a part of Manchester known as Bury, identifies with such children, having come up, as implied in the first verse, from a similar background. Or put differently he realizes that loitering, if you will, is a common and even innocent part of the youth experience.

That said he, the vocalist also advises the “Lippy Kids”, as he refers to such persons, to contrastingly maximize the ‘golden days’ of their youth. Or put alternatively, it can be reasonably put forth that now in his age, with Guy being 37 years old when this track came out, that the vocalist knows that there are better things for idle kids to do than just hanging out on a street corner. 

Therefore he challenges these Kids, instead of being lippy or rude or what have you, to rather do something constructive like “build a rocket, boys!”, which is actually the thesis sentiment of this track. 

And yes, that quote is also the name of the album this song is derived from. But more to the intended point, Elbow is speaking to the Lippy Kids’ potential. That is to say that randomly telling someone to “build a rocket” is an ambiguous yet powerful allegory. It implies that these kids can do great things if they put their minds and energy to it.


So it’s obvious that if, say Guy Garvey were the Prime Minister of the UK, he wouldn’t go about lambasting the disenfranchised youth of the day. He seems to understand that current trends, whether they be rockin’ hoodies or whatever, are, in the grand scheme of things, passing phases as far as kids are concerned. And so is bumming around on the corner. 

But he also understands that time, which the Kids actually have more of than most of us, is in fact a valuable resource. And therefore, these same off-putting, demonized youth also have the potential to accomplish great feats if they were so inclined.

Lyrics to Elbow's "Lippy Kids"

Elbow and “Lippy Kids”

For those who may not know, Elbow is actually the name of a band from England. The group’s discography dates back to 2001, and it was during the aughts, most notably the group’s fourth studio album, 2008’s “The Seldom Seen Kids”, where they have experienced their most notable commercial success thus far. 

Meanwhile “Lippy Kids” is a single from their studio album that directly followed, 2011’s “Build a Rocket Boys!”, being released as such by Polydor Records and Fiction Records on 4 March 2011. 

And the song was written by Elbow members Guy Garvey, Pete Turner, Mark Potter, his brother Craig Potter and Richard Jupp.

All of the names above (except for Jupp) are still members of the act as of the writing of this post.

“Lippy Kids” experienced a little bit of chart success in Europe, by the looks of things being best received in the Netherlands. And the track was produced by the aforementioned Craig Potter, who primarily serves as the band’s keyboardist.

Lippy Kids

1 Response

  1. Alexander says:

    I thought it was about first love…the freshly painted angel…and how love so transformed the apelike teenager that his family no longer recognised him. “Build a rocket” could also be nothing more than what lads try to do with old pram wheels…but “Build a go-kart” doesn’t scan so well.

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