Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Rockaliser 30: The Delgados, The Great Eastern (2000)

[Welcome To the Rockaliser 30, a month-long series devoted to classic albums that have been eclipsed, forgotten, misheard, or otherwise not given their propers. This is Day Twenty Six. Archive here.]

The Delgados’ third album is an epic swirl of melody and aching grandiosity. Its songs begin quietly, but grow to enormous proportions, larger than they are loud. The Great Eastern is animated by the desire to escape--drug-induced bliss and total silence surface in the lyrics--but the album carves out and plunges into its own narcotized roar.

Paul Savage’s cymbals clash loudly on The Great Eastern, and his echoing, intricate drum work is front and center. The tunes are all built around subdued melodies, but cloaked in elaborate arrangements and shifting time signatures. The Delgados use these tools to build their slow, ornate and psychedelic climbs.

Producer Dave Fridmann deserves some of the credit for this sound, especially for putting the drums at the center of the mix. Yet with slightly weaker songwriting (as on follow-up Hate), the magic dissipates. These ten tracks are marvels for their weary elegance, and of course their big melodies, but the little touches matter:

Emma Pollack’s double tracked voice on “Accused Of Stealing,” mournful in one ear, all sweetness in the other. How that same track swoons into its chorus. Alun Woodward’s approximation of a strung out Stuart Murdoch. The trade-offs between Pollack and Woodward on “Thirteen Guiding Principles,” and how they lead into a heavy freakout. The twisting horn, trip-hop drums and heavenly string/horn sounds of opener “The Past That Suits You Best,” their gentle takeoff.

Other albums have explored big, druggy pop sounds--Spiritualized’s Let It Come Down, released the following year, is a close cousin to this disc. And The Delgados belong to a group of bands who try to annihilate the sense of loss and alienation in their lyrics with massive, gorgeous noise (My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr are predecessors). Even in this rarefied company, The Great Eastern is unique--straining to reach its sublime highs, and to stay there.

1 comment:

  1. Catching up with the conclusion of the 30, and this is a nice choice. I've preferred and spent a lot more time with Hate and Universal Audio (and Pollock's two amazing solo albums), somehow finding this one a bit too austere, initially, but on closer inspection it really is enormous in the ways you describe. Thanks for reminding this could be their peak. --g