When Delays first appeared almost exactly a year ago from Southampton, they were like a breath of fresh air. Nearer To Heaven, their debut single, was a soaring skyscraper of a record that showcased lead singer Greg Gilbert’s eerily high vocals to perfection. The following singles, Hey Girl and Long Time Coming, cemented Delays status as one of the most exciting new bands around.
Now the album, the marvellously titled, very English sounding, Faded Seaside Glamour, has arrived and the stakes have been somewhat raised for Delays. Franz Ferdinand recently released one of the best debut albums for years, and the rather more restrained Keane look set to do likewise in the coming months.
So do Delays have the quality to compete with their talented contemporaries? Well on the evidence of Faded Seaside Glamour, the answer is a resounding yes. Although on first listen, nothing quite matches the glorious rush of those three singles, repeated listening is immensely rewarding and uncovers several tracks that are nothing short of gems.
The singles are certainly the highlight though. Nearer To Heaven still sounds, well, heavenly and Long Time Coming, despite having an introduction that could become almost as ubiquitous as Coldplay‘s Clocks, is pretty much close to a perfect pop song. Hey Girl, meanwhile, conjures up images of long hot summers with its sun-drenched harmony vocals and jangly guitars.
Elsewhere, Gilbert’s vocals dominate proceedings and it’s certainly a remarkable voice. Opening track Wanderlust teams up calypso-style steel drums with his otherworldly falsetto to delightful effect. Although You Wear The Sun is another fine example of Delays’ mastery of guitar pop, there are moments of experimentation here too – the electronic effects of Stay Where You Are being particular standouts.
Gilbert’s voice sometimes recalls Brett Anderson, especially on the delicate ballad No Ending, which is as good as anything that Suede ever recorded. Although some tracks do tend to slide into formulaic jangly indie pop (such as One Night Away) these moments are few and far between. If anything, Delays are proof of the power of the well crafted song – some of these choruses will stay in your head for months.
In a year that’s shaping up to be an excellent one for British music, Faded Seaside Glamour will certainly be mentioned as one of 2004’s highlights. In fact, all the evidence suggests that given a few more years and even more self-confidence, Delays could produce something truly extraordinary.