I think they make some valid points but there is so much they are ignoring too- it's a much denser album than the very minimalistic BARB and while, yes, it is a bit cuddly at times, but I think this is where Elbow stand out anyway. They have an extremely high emotional intelligence and zoom in on emotive specificity where the likes of Coldplay lazily take a Google Earth snapshot of the human condition.
I would agree that on BARB they teetered on Hovis-ad schmaltz but I can't see any of that here. It's a much meatier, more varied collection of songs that doesn't sag in the middle like BARB and each and every song sounds different. What about that glorious title song too? Very Any Day Now, very proggy and the entire album harks back to their earlier sound.
I think My Sad Captains, as gorgeous as it is, is the closest we get to the "cuddly" or "safe" sentimentality NME seems to be lamenting. I am not bothered though because, yes, I love the edgier, darker side to Elbow, and I think we have it here in Charge, Fly Boy Blue, the title song and the dark, ominous closer The Blanket of Night; what I feel they excel in is interesting, intelligent music and mindblowing lyrics of which I cannot find anywhere else in modern music. Give me this over the lazily vague how/now/brown/cow lyricism of Chris Martin et. al. (I like Martin, but to his own admission, he cannot write lyrics for toffee!). Moreover, I find Coldplay are one of those bands who face switched on the "money tap" as Garvey calls it, too often. I actually think Ghost Stories may be a surprisingly non-commercial affair (though the lyrics will still be awful! Haha!).
TTOALOE is not a perfect album; I still prefer albums 3 & 4) but it's up there with their debut and is better than Cast and BARB as a whole IMO.