In the top five of indie bands that still matter (if there are even five left that still do), the Indelicates have a permanent place in the top three. Their refusal to kowtow to the music industry, instead relying on consistently good, uncompromising albums and creative modes of marketing (from selling children’s books to fudge) proves that artists can still do things on their own terms, provided they have both the skill and something relevant to say. After a foray into more American concerns with third release, the (at this point) imaginary musical David Koresh Superstar, Simon and Julia Indelicate have returned to caberet stylings and cultural criticism on their latest, Diseases of England. While at first seemingly different in most every way from its predeccessor, Diseases of England shares similarities in both heavy lyricism and a threat of inaccesibility. Fortunately, as fans who have heard previous bits of Diseases of England—which was almost entirely released in segments while funding was secured for the full album—will know, the fourth Indelicates outing is as grand as anything in the duo’s back catalog.
Two instantly discernible things about Diseases of England is that it is slower and less reliant on humor than Simon and Julia’s earlier albums, American Demo and Songs for Swinging Lovers. Still, despite a slightly more serious tone and the taking on of inflammatory personae throughout the album, Diseases of England is no po-faced release. The bombastic opening combo of “Bitterness is the Appropriate Response” and “Pubes” allows the listener to have some space to shimmy before the album pacing grows more deliberate. “Bitterness…” is an angry Futurist (but not Fascist)/Situationist screed. Its youthful defiance is later replaced by the potent revulsion of “Everything is Just Disgusting”, a trade-off which proves highly effective. “Pubes” hews more closely to Indelicates’ signatures than most of the other material on here, but it still manages to sound like a fresh step for them. For the listener, it’s all-together exhilarating, a tongue-in-cheek glam romp that makes selling sex sound even sleazier than it already is.The Indelicates aren’t all fun and perversity, however. They can be beautiful and perverse as well, like on “Le Godemiche Royal” (translation: golden dildo; also the name of a pamphlet produced on the eve of the French Revolution). And, they can be straight-up beautiful, as on the Julia solos, “All You Need is Love” and “I Used to Sing”, two melancholy highlights too pristine for satire.
Of the four previously unreleased tracks which round out the album, “Enemies” is eerie; “Dirty Diana” is theatrical and enthralling; “Not Alone” is uncomfortably uplifting; and “Dovahkiin” is pretty in spite of its cynicism. “Dirty Diana” contains the line “she’s a welt on the arse of England”, and it’s this sort of scourge which permeates the album. Roughly 90% of the songs on here evoke filthy streets mottled with contaminated rainwater, but the Indelicates are the band that can make such unsavory visions inviting. With a lyric book that contains footnotes and Threepenny Opera motifs popping up here and there (musically and especially on the album cover), there is a lot to unpack here. But even for listeners who choose to listen blindly, this is a grimily beautiful release worthy of the heart that was put in to it.
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