The Delgados iTunes Tracks

The Delgados

In lieu of The DELGADOS coming to the fore in the mid-90s, Caledonian acts were low up the pecking order of merit in the eyes and ears of indie-rock fans – exceptions to the rule: John Peel Festive Fifty faves TEENAGE FANCLUB, PRIMAL SCREAM and The JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. If not for university graduates Alun Woodward (vocals/guitar), Emma Pollock (vocals/guitar), Stewart Henderson (bass) and Paul Savage (drums), the scene would not only be shy of a seminal band, but one of Scotland’s largest independents, Chemikal Underground (run by The DELGADOS), also responsible for breaking BIS, MOGWAI, ARAB STRAP and many, many more on their route to semi-stardom.
Formed in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, late in 1994, “Bubblegum” band buddies Woodward, Henderson and Savage opened up their options when letting the latter’s then-girlfriend Emma Pollock into their fold; their fresh nom de plume was chosen in respect of top Tour de France cyclist Pedro Delgado. Kick-starting their careers with 7-inch `Monica Webster’ the following summer, The DELGADOS were well received by the music press and, of course… who else… DJ John Peel; Alun and Emma’s angular vocal/guitar assaults reminiscent of PAVEMENT.
Financing another group on their label was no picnic in the park and, in the process of handing over some limelight to BIS for their `Disco Nation’ and `The Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP’ singles, the quartet almost run aground without really getting into gear. Thankfully, after brief spells at the London-based Radar Records for `The Lazarwalker EP’ and Boa Records for the appropriately-titled shared 45 `Liquidation Girl’ (both released later in ’95), they were able to lure A&R man Graeme Beattie to put their wee house in order.
Spring 1996 brought fourth No.4 in Chemikal Underground’s reprised venture by way of `Cinecentre’, an exclusive platter (as was B-sides `Thirteen Gliding Principles’ and `M. Emulator’), that’s oft forgotten in comparison to debut album preview single, `Under Canvas Under Wraps’. Harder than usual twee-pop-punk that embraced a wall of sound (Savage’s military drumming a high spot!), the end-of-year Festive Fifty #3 cue bode well for parent set, DOMESTIQUES (1996) {*7}. Still a little rough around the edges, there was enough promise in `Surcose’ (lead single from an EP), `Strathcona Slung’ and `Akumulator’ to suggest the quirky quartet could be fill a void for fans sick of conventional Britpop bands.
Armed with songs of a sonic nature, or indeed pastel-shaped in the Scottish indie-pop tradition of yesteryear, that “difficult” second album was far from living up to that reputation. Instead, the Top 60 entry, PELOTON (1998) {*9} – named after the main group of riders in a bicycle race – was just the ticket to appeal to Peely patrons; `Everything Goes Around The Water’, minor hit `Pull The Wires From The Wall’ (Festive Fifty #1) and `The Actress’, as important to the year as anything by rivals MOGWAI, BELLE & SEBASTIAN, and others south of the border. Every track a tapestry of indie delights, if one was to cherry pick from the mouths of either Alun or Emma, then the swirling `The Weaker Argument Defeats The Stronger’, the prog-surfer/scratcher `Blackpool’, the breezy `Don’t Stop’ and the grunge-y `And So The Talking Stopped’, all made it a contender for album of the year.
But perhaps it was their third and most polished set, THE GREAT EASTERN (2000) {*8} – named after a shelter in Glasgow’s East end – which secured the band’s ever-growing reputation. For one, the album itself had not one weak point among the ten tracks, which segued like needle into thread. The DELGADOS – or “slim ones” to Spanish-speaking pedantic musos – owed much of this feat to the whistling flutes, assortment of horns and ambiguous use of orchestration which popped up throughout the set’s dizzying array of songs. Stand out slices included minor hit `American Trilogy’, its Top 10 Festive Fifty companion `No Danger’, `Accused Of Stealing’, `Witness’ and the frail accompaniment of closing number, `Make Your Move’. Although the album failed to crack the mainstream, it did reach the lower echelons of the charts.
The DELGADOS then worked alongside MERCURY REV musician-turned-producer Dave Fridmann (for a second time) on the Mantra/Beggars Banquet-endorsed HATE (2002) {*8}. This trial of sorts, away from the confines of their own outlet, American reviewers bandied them unfairly as “the depressed cousins of The FLAMING LIPS” (whom, incidentally, Fridmann had produced on several occasions). Yes, they were more orchestral and mournful than on previous encounters (examples: `Woke From Dreaming’, `The Drowning Years’ and the dark `Child Killers’), but through `Coming In From The Cold’ (a Peely fave alongside their session-only cover of ELO’s `Mr. Blue Sky’), minor hit `All You Need Is Hate’, `The Light Before We Land’ and `If This Is A Plan’, one could almost sense overseas listeners were reading The DELGADOS from a half-empty glass.
Incidentally, other B-side covers came courtesy of France Gall’s `Sacre Charlemagne’, The INCREDIBLE STRING BAND’s `A Very Cellular Song’, TIM HARDIN’s `How Can We Hang On To A Dream?’, DEAD KENNEDYS’ California Uber Alles’, EWAN MacCOLL’s `Ballad Of Accounting’, trad/Robert Burns’ `Parcel Of Rogues’ and Andrew Pope’s `Last Rose Of Summer’.
Battening down the hatches once again from their Chemikal Underground bunker, UNIVERSAL AUDIO (2004) {*7}, shifted the emphasis to the melodies, drawing critical comparisons with SAINT ETIENNE, CINERAMA or BLACK BOX RECORDER on indie-pop pieces `Everybody Come Down’, `I Fought The Angels’, `The City Consumes Us’ and swansong single, `Girls Of Valour’.
Frustrated with only relatively moderate sales from all their efforts, The DELGADOS decided to once and for all, pull the wires from the wall – and split spring 2005. As Savage continued with his work as an engineer/producer, EMMA POLLOCK fashioned out a solo career, whilst also occupying a space within The FRUIT TREE FOUNDATION and The BURNS UNIT. Henderson and Woodward, meanwhile, would find work with AIDAN MOFFAT & THE BEST-OFS (on 2009 album `How To Get To Heaven From Scotland’), whilst the latter fronted LORD CUT-GLASS (also in 2009) and released a solo LP in 2016 entitled, `Music From Battle Mountain’.
© MC Strong/MCS 1999-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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