Listening to the tracks for today’s post, I find it somewhat sad that the powerhouse Scottish quartet The Delgados (Alun Woodward, vocals/guitar: Stewart Henderson, bass: Paul Savage, drums; Emma Pollock, vocals/guitar) have disbanded. Their songs are plaintive, melodic miniatures that linger in the mind: obviously JP agreed, since he played them repeatedly after picking up on their first single, Monica Webster, and booked them for ten sessions.
One of these sessions (16 October 2002), a host of cover versions, produced ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky (FF 2002 #29). It’s done in a plain. affecting band arrangement that works so well one doesn’t miss the grandiose overkill of the original.
I think essentially our music is based around good songs in the first place, we are kind of like I suppose a traditional band but augmented very much by additional instrumentation, String and keyboard, the whole orchestration of the songs that we have done recently shows a lot more emotion, the songs that we write are very much from a moving point of view, the whole point of them is that they should have some effect on you when you are listening to them, I don’t think that they are ever plain and I don’t think our stuff ever gets into one sounds and sticks to the sound, generally there is always a point of crescendo, a point where you get the idea there has been a build up. I find it very hard to describe I just know we are very melodic because of the way we write, we tend to write songs first and then all the instrumentation later rather than wanting to use certain instruments and then working out a song, it’s always been based on the song first. so we still make a very melodic sound but we like to use a very expansive sound a lot of different textures we write very traditional. We are influenced by a lot of timeless music, I don’t think we really adhere to any current style, I certainly think there is a certain naivety about it sometimes. [Emma Pollock, contactmusic.com]
The group were formed after the three males found themselves kicked out of an earlier combo, Bubblegum. Emma was Paul’s girlfriend (now wife), and she was asked to join them: a wise decision, as her languid vocals and rich, allusive songwriting lent a highly original flavour to their sound. In common with other artists of recent years, such as Radiohead and Neko Case, they shied away from major labels and instead formed Chemikal Underground Records, which they still run corporately.
Taking their name from cyclist Pedro Delgado (cycling allusions would crop up from time to time throughout their career), The Delgados released approximately one album every two years, and the second of these, Peloton (from 1998), contained three Festive Fifty entries: Pull The Wires From The Wall (FF 1998 #1 and All-Time FF 2000 #26), a gently unsettling hymn to isolation and awkwardness;
Everything Goes Around The Water (FF 1998 #9), which starts with a gentle flute à la Jethro Tull before resolving itself into an elegant duet underpinned with orchestral swashes and lyrics that stick in the memory (‘I never really know what to say until it’s been said’);
and the unleashed, polished splendour of The Actress (FF 1998 #38: ‘a big favourite of our William’ – JP). Bringing the band to the attention of a wider audience with its more complex arrangements, the album was a critical success (like virtually everything they did) but not a huge seller, despite Wires reaching the lower rungs of the UK charts.
They are the kind of group that make it impossible to choose a favourite song or even a favourite album, since every track contains new surprises and begs your undivided loyalty: which, believe me, is easily and freely given.