Tomorrow night at Glasgow Barrowlands, I’m going to be one of a couple of thousand incredibly excited and incredulous fans utterly transfixed by the sight of The Delgados.
It’s been eighteen years since they called it a day, seemingly having decided that raising families, embarking on solo careers, running a record label, producing other musicians’ records, organising cultural festivals to commemorate Glasgow being host city to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and managing a very busy recording studio was enough to be getting on with.
But, last June, came the news that I, and many other fans had long given up on hearing. A five-date tour of the UK, taking in Brighton, London, Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow. I’m typing this up having read reviews and seen footage of the first three shows, all of which have been incredibly positive. The photo at the top of this post was taken at the Brighton show by none other than David Gedge who simply said they ‘sound amazing.’
I’ve spent much of the last week refamiliarising myself with the back catalogue of the five albums released between 1996 and 2004, and it feels like the right thing to come up with an ICA to mark the occasion.
The thing is, I’m not going to feature any of the ten songs that Charity Chic included on his Delgados ICA back in September 2018. The thing is, CC took the interesting approach to have two tracks from the five studio albums in chronological order on both sides of the ICA as it allowed him to demonstrate the band’s evolution, and in doing so he included some of the most obvious choices if you were to canvass the opinions of the fanbase.
I’m going to do it a bit differently, but ensuring that the ICA will be made up (with one exception) from the 21 songs that were played at the comeback gig in Brighton. The fact that 8 of the t had previously featured on CC’s ICA was not a problem, as I intend to demonstrate.
1. The Arcane Model (Peloton, 1998)
The Delgados had burst on to the scene in 1995, and much of the early material, including most of the debut album Domestiques (1996) was, to use CC’s description, loud and thrashy. They were part of an emerging local scene in which bands like bis and Urusei Yatsura took the influences of the likes of the Pixies, Pavement and Sonic Youth and offered a West of Scotland twist. It was all quite wonderful at the time, but there was always a nagging doubt of whether it was truly sustainable.
The Delgados got ahead of the curve very early on with their second album. They chose Tony Doogan, who had worked on many of the early Belle & Sebastian releases to be the producer, and many of the new songs utilised strings, woodwind and piano. Peloton was the album that really got me on board. The Arcane Model starts off as almost indie-pop by numbers, but by the time of the first chorus and second verse, we are entering a whole new world.
2. The Light Before We Land (Hate, 2002)
The opening track on the fourth album. Orchestral pop at its very finest. No wonder that David Gedge, during his Cinerama phase, asked Emma Pollock to sing on a couple of his songs.
3. Sucrose (Domestiques, 1996)
The only track on this ICA that wasn’t played in Brighton (or indeed London or Manchester) but given the band have said they intend to alternate the sets a little bit, I’m crossing my fingers that they might delight the local audience tomorrow night with this very old favourite that was also released as a single.
4. American Trilogy (The Great Eastern, 2000)
The third album was the one that took the band to new heights in terms of the critics. It was short-listed for the Mercury Prize and featured very highly on many end of year lists, albeit all the wonderful words that were written didn’t translate into sales, given that The Great Eastern got no higher than #72 in the UK charts. But it has proven to be one of those ‘word of mouth’ records that has found its way into many a collection over the years. The band brought in thirteen additional musicians to play on the album…..which leads nicely to….
5. Thirteen Gliding Principles (The Great Eastern, 2000)
This closes the first side of the Great Eastern and is perfectly suited to do similar with the ICA. One of the few Delgados songs in which Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock do call and response vocals, rather than one or the other being the sole lead. Gear yourself up for how quickly this one comes to an end.
1. Everybody Come Down (Universal Audio, 2005)
What proved to be the final album was a bit of a curveball. As mentioned above, The Great Eastern and Hate had been full of additional musicians, but there was a conscious decision that the next album had to be stripped back somewhat and so, other than the occasional flourish of a guest keyboard player, it was all the work of Emma, Alun, Stewart Henderson (bass) and Paul Savage (drums).
Everybody Come Down was the comeback single. It was The Delgados reimagined, with a song that was perfect a dance down at the indie disco. It even got some exposure on mainstream and daytime radio stations and in a perfect world it would have been a huge hit, much better than the #56 it peaked at.
2. Come Undone (Universal Audio, 2005)
Universal Audio wasn’t all sunshine-pop. We weren’t to know it at the time that it was to be the last album, but the good news is that Come Undone would prove to be an early indication of how Emma Pollock’s solo albums would sound. (There’s been three so far, with another in the pipeline).
3. Child Killers (Hate, 2002)
At 6:42, this was the longest song the band ever recorded, and not a single second is wasted. Alun’s vocal style often bordered on fragile, but in a way that perfectly suited the music, as is very much the case on a song that was the centrepiece of Hate.
4. The Actress (Peloton, 1998)
One of my all-time favourites. As I said at the beginning of the ICA, Peloton was the album with which I first fell in love with The Delgados. The opening five tracks are stunning – CC had two of them on his ICA, and I’ve added another two to this effort, and combined they just happen to be the four songs from that album the band have included in the set list for the comeback tour. No wonder I’m excited.
5. Make Your Move (The Great Eastern, 2000)
This closes the Great Eastern. I’m really hoping the Barrowlands goes silent when this achingly beautiful ballad gets played. I’ll let you know when I make the time to pen a review……