Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Discourse 2000 #5

NOMINATED BY: Iain Forrester of ifblog

From releasing Mogwai and Arab Strap records through to The Phantom Band’s current emergence, Chemikal Underground has over a decade’s history of excellence. As such, The Delgados’ own music has long risked being overshadowed by the label they run. I would contend, though, that Hate outdoes anything ever released on it.

The even more confident follow-up to 2000’s Mercury-nominated The Great Eastern, Hate is a grandiose and touching study of finding beauty in despair. To realise their expanded visions, they employed a choir, something approaching half an orchestra and production from Dave Fridmann, this being back before he crossed the line between making records sound enormous and making MGMT hurt people’s ears.

The record is built around the elaborate possibilities that result, from the brief passage of widescreen tranquillity that opens it, to the choral chanting that surrounds Emma Pollock’s gorgeous voice on “Woke From Dreaming” and lends an extra sinister edge, to the moment that the chorus of All Rise crashes in and it sounds like half the world is rising in response.

It’s also a record shot through with sadness - at times poetic, at times brutally straightforward (one repeated line in Child Killers is "the truth is our lives were shite"). A quick flick through the booklet and glance at the lines they chose to highlight gives you as a representative sample: "We will kill if we need to", "Bring on the screaming and I’ll take your demons", "If you dare, look up and see what’s there" and "You look older/You look harder and tired and colder".

Even when not musically pushing this darkness, there is always a certain tension to even the calmer moments. They seem ever ready, at the crash of a drum or stab of strings to turn to turmoil. Yet there is still a strange glint of hope, a feeling as if by facing their demons and by outdoing them in scale, by finding some beauty in them, they can nullify them.

There are also a couple well placed moments of light relief, at least in context. Coming In From The Cold is a more stripped down and musically upbeat nod to their indie-pop past, though the lyrics are still not exactly straightforwardly hopeful.

Then there’s perversely joyful highlight All You Need Is Hate, in which they take on not just The Beatles but every love song ever. Throughout a relentlessly catchy three minute stomp they marry lovingly embellished classic pop to lines like "We kicked and punched and stabbed to death/And everyone applauded my fine actions/I was overcome", delivered with a cutting, manic pleasure by other singer Alun Woodward.

Somehow, neither the issue of that as a single, nor a release on a slightly bigger label than their own succeeded in gaining Hate the audience that it deserved. It’s perhaps not surprising then that their (still enjoyable) final album set its sights a little lower. Hate still stands, as then, as a massive but overlooked achievement.

Coming In From The Cold

All You Need Is Hate

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