When you come from a place like Southhampton, on England’s southern coast, it might be hard to dream up anything but breezy, ocean-scented, lush pop music as the salty sea air wraps wistfully around your sun kissed skin and sandy hair. “Southhampton’s really, really average in every way,” exclaims Greg Gilbert, front man of Delays. “It’s not really depressed or downbeat so you’ve got romantic notions of it, it?s just terribly average.” Oh, right then. Well, nevertheless, despite my romantic visions of England’s south coast, you would never know otherwise whilst listening to this utterly gorgeous debut album from Delays, Faded Seaside Glamour.
The best thing about Faded Seaside Glamour is it contains not one, not two, but three songs that come about as close to pop perfection as you could ever hope to get. I’m talking about the kind of tunes that you can listen to again, and again, and again without growing weary of them. The kind of tunes that you want everyone to hear, and everyone to cherish as much as you do. And the remainder of the album? It’s a lot more of the same. And a lot more of songs like “Wanderlust”, “Nearer than Heaven”, and “Hey Girl” are pretty damn extraordinary.
Inspired by The La’s, Cocteau Twins, The Manic Street Preachers, and Britpop, Delays started off with the unfortunate sounding moniker, Corky. Fortunately, better heads prevailed and after an indeterminate amount of time touring their acoustic-rock sound around Southhampton pubs they finally shut themselves away for a few years, added a member or two, changed their name, and emerged as a “tech-friendly British Byrds”. Or so their press materials call them.
Introducing themselves with their debut single, “Nearer Than Heaven” was further evidence of a renewed commitment to sensible decision making. Marrying the jaunty pop of the La’s with the dreamy cathedral-like hum of Cocteau Twins feels so natural that it’s a wonder it’s never been done before, but derivative or not—and really what the hell isn’t at this point?—“Nearer than Heaven” hooks you from the start as its soaring chorus and carefully plucked guitar blends beautifully into the verses. As good as the verses are though, the chorus is such that they act only as tension-builders, as you wait expectantly for one more hit from the methadone rush of the perfect pop payoff.
But before enjoying “Nearer Than Heaven” (for it is track two on Faded Seaside Glamour), one must first experience “Wanderlust”. Here’s where the Cocteau Twins references are really accurate. Opening with the sequenced sound of sampled steel drums, Greg Gilbert soon is crooning affectionately, “Can you hear that knocking in your soul / No, no, you don’t listen.” But, of course, you must listen, as the song simply deserves to be enjoyed to its fullest. Open the windows, lie in the sun, let the breeze kick up around you; you will not be without a proper soundtrack.
Things slow down a little after the initial rush of the first three songs (“Long Time Coming” is also first-class pop), for the downbeat “Bedroom Scene”, and the beautifully elegiac “No Ending”.
The bouncy “You Wear the Sun” is fine enough on its own, but in the context of the LP as a whole it acts more as a precursor to the album’s third masterpiece, “Hey Girl”. Perfectly suited in its simplicity, and Hollies-like innocence, Gilbert gets it just right with his lyrics here. Opening with lines like “Hey girl / Where in the world did you come from / I said, hey girl / Where in the world do you belong”, and moving right into “Hey girl / Watching you walk is like a dream / Hey girl / You got a nerve and you sure got me”, you would be forgiven for thinking that Gilbert is attempting the follow up to Herman’s Hermits’ classic, “I’m Into Something Good”. With its rush-of-new-love splendor, and its two and a half minute length, it’d be a disservice to the genre to have lyrics any more complicated.
OK, so none of the last five tracks on the LP live up to “Hey Girl”, so in one sense you could say that it’s all downhill from there. But it isn’t really. Delays make a lovely sound and even when they’re not rewriting lost pop classics, they’re creating forgettable, but lovely songs like “There’s Water Here” and “Satellites Lost”, which might be lulling you to sleep if you have in fact taken said advice and curled up in a breezy, but warm patch of sun.
There is an element of beauty in Delays that is rare to find these days, and with such an accomplished debut they have an excellent shot at growing into something truly special. Southhampton may be pitifully average, but their newest musical sons are anything but. Go buy this record.
// Notes from the Road
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