You’d think, in these days of internet downloading and short attention spans, there’s never been a greater need for an album to be a coherent, consistent collection of songs. Judging by the huge influx of patchy long-players over the past half-decade, though, few artists have cottoned on to this. By and large, it appears we’ve gone back to those pre-Beatles days, when an album was merely a vessel for making extra bucks from a hit single or two.
In the case of Delphic, introductory singles “Doubt” and “Halcyon” were massive radio hits in the UK in late 2009 and early 2010, respectively. So big were they, in fact, that everything else on the parent album pales in comparison.
Before getting to that, I should sort a misconception that’s dogged Delphic since their very first reviews. They are from Manchester, and like much of Manchester’s musical output, they fall (with wearisome predictability) into one of two very distinct categories. Eschewing the indie guitars favored by feather-cut moptop-types (yes, I’m talking about you, the Courteeners), they avoid the “next Oasis” tag. Subsequently, with keyboards their weapon of choice, they’ve earned themselves the tag “the next New Order”.
To be so lazy with reference points, not to mention inaccurate, is to do them a huge disservice. In fact, either of the aforementioned singles could stand up against anything New Order have ever done. Better it, even. So no, despite the electronic leanings, and the fusion of dance and rock throughout most of Acolyte, Delphic are not the latest set of New Order-aping chancers.
Instead, there’s a weird, brooding euphoria present on Acolyte that’s very much their own. It, believe it or not, could actually be the real undoing of this album. Delphic is a rock band who like to do dance. The trouble is, they failed to realize that even dance music can boast a likable, discernible tune – pop sensibilities even. So, for every monstrous, radio-smash hit like “Halcyon”, we get the prolonged electro-wankery of the title track or the monotonous “Red Lights”, outstaying its welcome by at least three minutes. At just four tracks in, this unfortunate creative dip comes far too early.
It’s a shame, because the opening duo of “Clarion Call” and “Doubt” set the bar high. The former is beautifully pitched between restrained indie and shimmering, arms-aloft electro-dance, complete with vocals that start off sounding like an audition for some Hacienda-organized choir. It’s a shame its last for just two minutes and 53 seconds.
The lowest point comes with the title track. Beginning as a lush, expansive soundscape of guitar effects, akin to Muse at their most understated, it develops into a lesson in how you shouldn’t outstay your welcome: a euphoric, pounding-bass electro-dance beat unfortunately stretched out over nearly nine, almost completely vocal-less minutes.
The remaining tracks of Acolyte, after the glorious, furrow-browed hedonism of “Halcyon”, attempt to redress the balance of likeable tunes to yawn-some repetition. So we get “Counterpoint”, Bloc Party-circa-their-second-album but with more grit and less personality, and “Remain”, which struggles with its job of closing the album in style. That’s due, again, to that LCD display on the CD player that passes five minutes, then six… and stops not too far short of seven minutes.
With “Halcyon” and “Doubt”, Delphic have two of the greatest singles of the past 12 months. But does getting the chemistry perfect just twice in 10 attempts mean they deserve your attention? Maybe. Perhaps they’re learning that keeping things pared down to three minutes as opposed to eight might just mean their next effort is a classic. For now, the blueprint is there. It’s just a case of tinkering with the numbers.