In 2010, the Indelicates’ second album, Songs for Swinging Lovers, rekindled my love for music by being clever and critical, and for sounding like a glorious collaboration between the Mekons, the Wedding Present, Carter USM, and Luke Haines, with a song co-written by Jacques Brel following a really awesome séance. While the Indelicates’ music isn’t the most original, the subject matter of their songs and the way they go about approaching those subjects is wholly refreshing. From love songs taking the viewpoint of Unity Mitford to biting (and completely accurate) putdowns on today’s youth and culture, there’s no subject the Indelicates are afraid to tackle. Their third release tackles only one subject, yet it’s their most ambitious undertaking to date.
Entitled David Koresh Superstar, the Indelicates’ latest release is a concept album based on a (at this point in time) fictional musical about religious leader and self-proposed prophet David Koresh and the Waco Siege of 1993, in which Koresh and his followers perished following a 50-day standoff with the ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). The Indelicates have gone all-out for this release, creating a video game called “Super David Koresh Attack” — the player tries to dodge ATF members in order to get to the mission to pray — and expressing interest in turning the whole thing into a full-length film. A subject as touchy as this may not be the hottest talking point at the moment, or the most intriguing to many music fans, but the Indelicates have done a stunning job at making history intriguing.
Subject matter aside, the Indelicates’ other great strength is their vocal prowess; both Julia Clark-Lowes and Simon Clayton have strong, dramatic singing voices suited to the material. While Clayton’s voice sounds like a cross between Luke Haines and the Wedding Present’s David Gedge, he has a greater range than both and sings in a convincing enough American accent as Koresh. The only moment of overindulging in a Texan accent comes on second song “The Road From Houston to Waco”, and is quickly forgotten.
Being a concept album/musical featuring multiple characters, the Indelicates had to cast others in supporting roles, and thus recruited Jim Bob of Carter USM, Philip Jeays, and Lily Rae, among others. Jeays and Bob are particularly notable for their performances, as an ATF member and Timothy McVeigh — who cited the Waco Siege as a reason for his attack on Oklahoma City in 1995 — respectively. David Koresh Superstar‘s finest moment, however, is “Something’s Goin’ Down in Waco”. Featuring a variety of voices that take the listener from an anonymous call expressing concern over happenings in Waco through the standoff between an ATF officer and Koresh and concluding with news watchers the world over commenting on the siege, it gives a vivid illustration of the rapidly escalating events. It’s also more fun than any song on the Waco Siege has any right to be, particularly when Simon muses “looks like another Ruby Ridge” in a campy German accent.
Concept albums are often hit or miss affairs. As attention spans dwindle ever smaller and music becomes less an art form and more a flavor suited to that moment or time of day, the device of telling a story in album form has gained in respectability. However, the artist must ensure that each song can clamp down the listener’s attention. David Koresh Superstar peaks and dives, but even if things drag a bit, one will want to stick around for the closer, a blistering rendition of the folk traditional “John the Revelator”. Listening to the entire release, the question may also arise as to “why now?”, but in a world where terrorism is a steady concern and the way in which government institutions conduct themselves is an ongoing topic, “why now?” can be answered in myriad ways. The Indelicates don’t equip listeners with an answer, but they do get toes tapping enthusiastically enough to want to consider such arguments in the first place. In a world where music continues to be dumbed down or devalued, we cannot ask for much more.