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Mantra Recordings, 2002
As you might expect from its no-nonsense title, this album is filled with windswept, introspective gloom. Of course, the oblique McCartney parody "All You Need is Hate" is the most obvious in its ironic perkiness. But they don't sink much gloomier than the drug abuse lament "Child Killers" with its "goodbye wonder, goodbye brain". I respect them for expressing their misery with good old British swearwords like "shite", and "dickhead".
Their songs interleave the sugary, scoopy voice of Emma Pollock with Alun Woodward's fragile, Belle and Sebastian-like tones. Dave Fridmann's deft production adds a generous smearing of choirs and orchestral instruments. There's echoes of his Mercury Rev work in the bare piano at the start of "Woke From Dreaming" and the little ping that introduces "All Rise". As a rule, it doesn't swamp the Delgados' tunes. But there's the occasional weird excess. The ear-gnawing distortion on the huge drums at the start of "Light Before We Land" is bizarrely deliberate, so don't bother to test whether your EQ is misconfigured.
The tunes are mellow and slinkily-written, but don't grab me in the same way as, say, Mercury Rev. It's not bland, it just comes across as constantly mid-tempo, mid-level. One major strength is that they can certainly pull off a great rousing chorus. The refrain of "Light Before We Land" is big enough to blast those ugly drums away. "All Rise" sensibly takes its time before launching into its string-laden singalong. But I really wanted to like the Delgados more. Maybe I should try "The Great Eastern"?
April 16, 2005