The Delgados are one of those bands whom critics tend to treat with unashamed fawning, while the majority of the record buying public seem unaware of their existence. Even their last album, the Mercury Music Prize nominated The Great Eastern, while certainly raising the band’s profile, failed to turn them into household names.
It’s no big surprise though. The Delgagos music is almost made to come complete with adjectives such as ‘dark’, ‘brooding’, and ‘melancholic’, and this new album is no exception. Despite the fact that the first single to be taken from Hate, Coming In From The Cold sounds deceptively poppy, this is hardly easy listening. What it is, however, is quite brilliant.
As on previous Delgados albums, writing and vocal duties are shared between Emma Pollack and Alun Woodward. Pollack’s opening track, The Light Before We Land is indicative of the album. Lush strings open the track, before the drums kick in, ushering in a woozily melodic feel. The mix of the distorted backing track with Pollack’s sweet-as-honey voice gives the impression of a very dark fairytale, or a nightmare you just don’t want to wake up from.
This combination of light and darkness is a theme running through the whole album. The wryly titled Hate Is All You Need has an almost ridiculously jaunty melody married to lyrics such as “hate is all around, find it in your heart…come on hate yourself, everyone here does”. The pretty piano motif on Woke From Dreaming similarly overlooks some of Pollack’s most disturbing imagery yet – “I was shaking screaming, I was still alive….hatred lifting and I’ll start to weep now”.
Although there are no weak tracks on Hate, possibly the album’s standout is the bleakly titled Child Killer. Due to recent events, the song’s title alone guarantees that this will receive the bare minimum of airplay, which is a shame as it’s one of the most melodically lovely things you’ll hear all year. It’s hard not to be concerned for Alun Woodward though – “how can I say what’s right? The truth is our lives were shite…what’s the point to you?” as he muses at one point.
If there is a criticism to be made of Hate, it’s that it does sound rather similar to The Great Eastern. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, as The Great Eastern was one of the finest records of 2000. But those fans looking for musical progression may come away disappointed.
But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as the old saying goes. The Delgados’ fourth album is an excellent addition to an already impressive canon of work. Don’t let the overriding mood of bleakness put you off – just as you’re starting to worry about the band’s mental health, Woodward can come up with a lyric such as “you look harder and tired and cold…is that what ten years with a dickhead can bring?”. It’s little touches like that that make The Delgados one of Scotland’s undiscovered gems.