If push comes to shove and I am forced to name a favorite band it is The Delgados. I posted a song here recently from their first album, Domestiques, and mentioned that I find the first record to be pretty standard mid 90s indie rock. Certainly not a record that gave any real indication of the genius and orchestral beauty bubbling right under the surface.
Two short years later (in 1998) they released Peloton, somehow managing to find the time to write and record all while running Chemikal Underground Records. I still remember the day at the record store when I purchased this album. I recalled liking the first record and took a chance on this one. Within the first few seconds of putting it on I knew that I was not in for the usual fare. Flute! They had become softer and more melodic. They also sounded a lot more depressed and that always bodes well for me liking a band. I sat there listening from start to finish feeling more and more in love with the band as each song played. I had filled the void that Tiger Trap had left within me when they disbanded. I had a new favorite (more mature!) band. The song Everything Goes Around The Water still recalls that day so vividly for me.
Everything Goes Around The Water
Pull The Wires From The Wall
Another two years passed by and I was anxiously awaiting their new record for most of it! I had no idea what to expect since there had been such growth between the first and second records. I bought The Great Eastern the day it came out. I rushed home to put it on and didn't like it very much. I have to be in the correct head/emotional space to connect with music and that time in my life was very tumultuous. I think the record initially was too much for me. Too emotional and depressing. It was like crawling under blankets and nearly suffocating. However, I came back to the record a short time later and it all clicked. To this day, it is my favorite Delgados record. I find that a good number of my favorite albums are growers. They take awhile to grab me but once they do they never let go. This was the album that they first toured the U.S. for and the night I saw them in San Francisco at Bottom Of The Hill will probably forever be one of my favorite memories. I don't think I believed that they would be able to reproduce the album live but they did so expertly with help from strings and a flutist/keyboard player.
Make Your Move
A friend at a record store made sure to grab me an advanced copy of Hate and the wait was still excruciating. My fandom had reached absurd levels - bootlegs, videos, contacting the band - but I was on a personal mission to introduce this band to as many people in the world that I could. My initial reaction was that it wasn't incredibly different from the previous album. I knew that it had been influenced by the work they did with the artist Joe Coleman (basically accompanying a film of his paintings with new and original instrumental work) and that it was going to be very dark stuff, even for them. I gave myself some time with the record and began to really appreciate the depths they were willing to go. Emma Pollock (guitars/vocals) had been pregnant and then suffered from post-partum depression and it is somehow conveyed without being blatant. Alun Woodward (guitars/vocals) was also able to tap into some very deranged places - I always got the feeling that his songs on the record were more influenced by their Coleman work. Of course, it wouldn't be a Delgados record without some poppy moments - twisted sentiments abound but coated in sugar.
All You Need Is Hate
The Light Before We Land
Finally, their last album, Universal Audio. I was honored when bass player Stewart Henderson offered to send me an advanced copy. As a superfan it felt like the best possible day of my life. I was nervous to listen to it - I guess I was worried that they would be in a rut. I should have known that they would never have been satisfied to do such a thing! This record is a triumph in good old fashioned indie pop. They had drastically reduced the grand arrangements and had brought in more keyboards. The guitars felt more prominent than they had in awhile, the drums sounded more organic (Paul Savage is also a producer who runs their Chem19 recording studio) and there were even more vocals on display with Stewart handling some of the backing vocal parts. I know that some people complained about the lack of strings but I always thought that it was a brilliant move. Not stagnating; moving forward by doing something different. I had the joy of seeing them one last time in San Francisco. (I only got to see them 3 times before they disbanded. This still makes me incredibly depressed.) Stewart decided to leave the band and that was that. (It's embarrassing to admit this but I sent Stewart an e-mail the morning I found out - to say that I was inconsolable is an understatement; I was sobbing uncontrollably for several hours. I was just trying to express to him that there were people who really appreciated and loved the band. I still worry that I came off as not very understanding of his reasons for leaving.)
Girls Of Valour
Sink Or Swim
I still find The Delgados to be a vastly underrated band and a worthwhile one to champion. I hope that some of you take a chance on them if you've never heard them or given them your attention before.