Emma Pollock: Watch The Fireworks

The Delgados founder, Emma Pollock, shows an uncanny knack for the swelling pop epic.

Emma Pollock

Watch The Fireworks

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2007-09-11
UK Release Date: 2007-09-17

Watch the Fireworks is an appropriate title for this record in at least two ways. The first is that Emma Pollock’s knack for the swelling pop song is best described as explosive. These tracks, indeed, are musical fireworks in their own rights, full of danger and glorious climax and all the quiet in between.

The second way Fireworks is a thoroughly appropriate title is that it works as a perfect metaphor for the experience of the album. At the risk of overly extending a metaphor, it seems there is something of a passive experience in watching fireworks the same way there is listening to a record. The work of others is played before our eyes (or ears) and the result is the feeling we get watching (or listening) to the action. Some moments are subtler than others, which are bombastic and extravagant. If operating under the assumption that all art is a form of trickery and the affect on the consumer of art is all based on the artist’s ability to disguise the lines of gimmick, Pollock’s record is brilliant. We, as listeners, react appropriately at nearly every moment. But again risking the metaphor stretched too thin, as the fireworks’ explosive show of holiday zeal is never perfect, neither is Pollock’s record. It’s indeed flawed as all wonderful things are.

Which brings me to Pollock’s former band, The Delgados, to whom most of these praises can be applied as well. Admittedly, it’s not necessarily fair to compare an artist’s solo work to their former band’s, but Watch the Fireworks finds Pollock accessing creative peaks the Delgados seemed to have lost in the pre-breakup disarray of the band’s last record, Universal Audio. These peaks are returned to order, or perhaps made even better, replaced and reinvented. Pollock’s vision of the pop song is uncanny and is represented over and over on Watch the Fireworks. Take “Adrenaline,” for example, a song that boasts a driving piano lead akin to some of Springsteen’s finest moments but doesn’t ever fail to be signature Pollock. Part of what makes the song so perfect is its builds and eventual movement from part to part. Instruments drop out altogether, are replaced by others, and by the end the piano that leads the song from the beginning gives way to shoegazing guitars and an epic orchestra of guitar parts before closing out with a calm that only ushers us into the build of the record’s next song.

Is it easy, as a fan of the Delgados, to listen to Watch the Fireworks and miss the interplay between Pollock and Alun Woodward, the guy-girl dynamic which contributed so strongly to the blueprint for so many loveable bands that came after them? Yes. Of course it is. But it is also obvious is that this is not a Delgados record, and as a progressive step from where that band left off, Pollock gives us a valiant effort full of great pop music. Fans of Stars and Rilo Kiley, among other lovers of pristine pop, will enjoy hearing Pollock give the kids a run for their money.

Simply put, Watch the Fireworks is a record of pop beauty. Shame as it is that the Delgados ended up a band that flew under the radar for its entire career, Pollock continues the tradition by building on what was there and rebuilding some of what was lost. Like a great break-up disaster, Watch the Fireworks finds Pollock at that moment of strength as she re-enters the game with what seems like all the confidence in the world.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.