Delphic is a band capable of creating glorious moments within mediocre songs. Yet the Manchester trio’s debut, 2010’s Acolyte, still had enough instances of joy to warrant repeat listens. Delphic’s sophomore release, Collections, applies the same practice of greater parts than wholes, but replaces the former album’s New Order homages with tastes even more mainstream in nature. What results is a bunch of nice pop hooks that aren’t formidable enough to support entire songs, let alone an entire album.
Collections starts off on the worst foot possible for a band with a singer who can’t sing. Richard Boardman basically sinks “Of the Young” as soon as he opens his mouth to attempt a soaring vocal that’s mid-way deflating. The song is salvaged, however, by a stadium-sized chorus that actually hits its point and sticks. On this song, at least, Delphic seem to have turned from New Order to Muse and—paltry vocals aside—do a decent job of it. Sadly, Delphic take an even more mainstream detour on lead single, “Baiya”, which honestly sounds like “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” era Backstreet Boys with light Eastern vibes. It’s somehow commendable that an indie band would unironically wander this far into bubblegum territory, but unfortunately the Delphic boys aren’t yet strong enough songsmiths to pull such a foray off. In the end, it comes across more as a parody of a pop song than a genuine stab.
Where Delphic do excel, however, is in choruses and bridges. “Doubt”, from Acolyte, was partly successful because its chorus was memorable. Likewise, songs such as “Freedom Found” and “Changes” either have plush choruses or deft verse-to-chorus transitions. “Freedom Found”, despite a few lovely flourishes, almost throws it all away with an outro vocal featuring Boardman at his most grating. The synth-poppy “Changes” thankfully goes the opposite direction and comes out the stronger track with its lovely closing refrain of “my back to the world” as well. But again, the listener has to endure some hokey British white-boy rapping before getting to the treasure. Album closer “Exotic” features a guest-rap from Greg B of 2morrows Victory, a cameo which works fine in that song, but which also makes you wish Boardman would have saved himself some embarrassment and left all rapping on Collections to this pro. A demo of a rapless “Changes” included here gives a good illustration of what the song could have been.
The few songs which are upheld by songcraft the entire way through, such as “The Sun Also Rises”, don’t hold enough staying power in the listener’s memory to prove themselves as genuinely great pop songs. Too often, however, songs succumb to the stylings that make bad mainstream pop music garish and annoying rather than uplifting and catchy. There are hints of strikingly non-mainstream moments, such as the moody ansaphone snippet in “Tears Before Bedtime”, but those instances are all too few. Delphic should be commended for not adhering to the New Wave-aping path that so many of its peers take, but in this instance the path less trod hasn’t turned out to be the best choice.
// Notes from the Road
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