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The Southampton-based Delays are generally billed as an indie band, and this is a label which often gives me pause when I'm considering giving a new act a chance. All too many indie musicians seem to try their hardest to live up to the stereotype of making music which is proudly unmelodic and untuneful, but rather a selection of earnest yet dreary dirges about how dreadful life is and how much better it would be if the US had never invaded Bhutan. (Yes, I know. But that doesn't stop some of them...)
So it was that I approached Faded Seaside Glamour for the first time with a due sense of dread - but I was to be pleasantly surprised, for this is a very listenable album, with a couple of its best tracks having now established themselves as among my firm favourites. That's not to say that the record is an unmitigated triumph, since there are a few less successful numbers in there as well, but it's an awful lot better than it might have been.
This is not a very long album: just 12 tracks totalling around 42 minutes. That's not particularly short by the standards of these things, but some may find themselves feeling a little short-changed nonetheless. At least while they're grumbling to themselves (or to anyone unfortunate enough to be standing nearby) they can enjoy looking at the cover design, which I like a lot. It doesn't seem to have a great deal to do with the seaside, showing at it does a number of ships going across tall aqueducts, but "faded glamour" fits it very well.
The album opens with the repetitive steel-drum intro to "Wanderlust", a theme which continues throughout the song but is quickly pushed to the background by frontman Greg Gilbert's trademark vocals, which can only be described as "gravelly falsetto". This, along with the lushly orchestral instrumentals and the generally summery feel to things, has led to many comparisons with The La's. What people usually mean by this, of course, given that most people only know one La's song, is "it sounds like There She Goes". I can hear echoes of Cast in there as well, though that band is nearly forgotten now so probably fewer will make the connection.
"Wanderlust" is a fair opener, but not particularly memorable. However, the next three tracks are all excellent, and form the strongest section of the album. "Nearer Than Heaven" is a slightly rockier number with a chorus that it will be hard to get out of your head and some lovely guitar work, and (admittedly at the second time of asking) was a reasonable success, reaching number 21. After this comes the band's biggest hit to date, "Long Time Coming", which managed number 16; despite the mildly innuendo-attracting title, this is a cheerful, almost exultant song with whooping synths and the best lyrics on the disc: "Threw your Lego in the lake / What'd you go and do that for?"
My own favourite song on Faded Seaside Glamour, however, is the very next track, "Bedroom Scene", which was unfortunately never released as a single. Right from the fantastic jangly-guitar intro it never lets up, with some superb harmonies in the verses, original and interesting lyrics ("Arabesque a flowery grave", anyone?) but perhaps most of all a sensationally good chorus. The music falls away to almost nothing in the run-up to it, and then the intro guitars make a glorious return along with a simple yet effective chorus, an earworm for the ages.
Sadly the rest of the album doesn't quite maintain these stellar standards; had it done so it would have been a gold-plated classic. That isn't to say that all of the other songs are terrible, far from it, but none of them really hits the heights. The one that comes closest is "Hey Girl", which many will have heard in its single incarnation. Half of the track - the chorus - is superb, with yet more joyous jangling guitars and a spring in its step, but the verses are relatively uninspired. The very different, driving synthiness of "Stay Where You Are" also bears a listen, though it's merely good rather than great.
To be fair to Delays, there are few truly bad tracks on this record. My own least favourite is probably the vague and swirly "No Ending", which the cynical might see as a description rather than a title; it seems a lot longer than its four and a half minutes. "There's Water Here" has a lovely acoustic guitar intro, but that's as good as it gets before it descends into the dreaded indie angst that is mostly avoided in the other songs. And the closing track, "On", is self-indulgent boredom of the sort that blights some of the Beatles' late output.
Still, as a whole Faded Seaside Glamour is a success, with more golden nuggets than bad eggs here. Delays are slightly to one side of the mainstream, but without veering away so far they get tangled in the weeds, and this makes a good introduction to the band.
At the time of writing the album was available from Amazon for £8.98 including p&p, which although not extraordinarily cheap seems like reasonable value to me. The song's tracks are also all available for listening via Spotify.
2. Nearer Than Heaven
3. Long Time Coming
4. Bedroom Scene
5. No Ending
6. You Wear The Sun
7. Hey Girl
8. Stay Where You Are
9. There's Water Here
10. Satellites Lost
11. One Night Away
From the gently synth and melodic steel drums of "Wonderlust" to the pounding, resounding chiming of "On", Faded Seaside Glamour gives a beautiful and bright splash of refreshing summer rock for the ears.
Lead singer, Greg Gilbert, has an extremely proficient falsetto tone that he uses at all opportunities. There's a slight rasping to his tone, that speaks of deeper emotion. Some may not appreciate the higher vocal range but I, for one, feel it lifts many of the songs to new heights and gives The Delays a very "different" feel from a lot of the indie-rock out there.
Highlights on the album include the haunting, yet beautiful "Long Time Coming" (a song which I instantly fell in love with when I first heard it) and "Stay Where You Are" (which sports one of the weirdest basslines I think I've ever heard - the timing is just magically bizarre!) The whole album reminds me of summer holidays I've been on... summer holidays that I enjoyed long before I even heard the album. The association is so strong now that I can't listen to the album at any other time of year, without longing for the sun.
In my opinion, "Faded Seaside Glamour" is The Delay's finest work. It's poppy, but without resorting to the slightly cheesy feel of some of their later releases. I would recommend this album to all fans of fun pop-rock.
While Southampton is probably better known from a musical perspective for the likes of Craig David, 2004 seen the Delays arrive to try and change that. This debut album was, however released on the quiet and the band were left to forge a reputation in any way they could. So rather than use the Pete Doherty method of attracting attention to yourselves they hit the road and supported other bands. This saw them gain support slots with the Manic Street Preachers and slowly their reputation has spread through the Indie music community.
I first came across the four piece around about a month after they released their debut album. Id bought NME for some reason and they were featured on the free CD attached to the front. So having listened to the CD a couple of times I decided to give the album a try. The album and the sound in general has been likened to the Cocteau Twins and they seem to have quite clear influences from the Byrds, The Las and even the previously mentioned Manic Street Preachers.
The album is produced by a friend of the band, Duncan Lewis, with all 4 members of Delays also taking an active roll in the production side of things. While it doesnt seem to have the raw edge that debut albums would have had around 5 or 6 years ago the production values seem to add a little something to The Delays. The end result is a very Summer sounding album that really shows the band can turn out decent pop music. Of course while the production is good it isnt what really appeals about The Delays. For all the benefits it adds to their music it is quite clear that the bands musical ability is what really gives them their edge.
Whilst they seem to really draw on their influences The Delays have also started to forge a new, unique sound of their own. For the majority of the album the guitars take the lead but there are moments where the Keyboards are a lot more prominent and the album appears to have a darker side. It is quite a mellow sounding album and the guitars really give it a slightly bubbly feel that makes it ideal for those sunny summer days. The drums arent particularly apparent throughout but they provide a nice backbone for the guitars and keyboards to use as an accompaniment. The sound works for The Delays and it is the musical side of things that really won me over after only a few listens.
While it is musically that The Delays really shine through I think that Greg Gilberts vocals also add a little something to the bands appeal. At times they sound a little stretched but on the whole his vocals are pretty solid and really suit the mood of each track. At times you think his vocals are going to give way but he just seems to pull off the right notes to keep the track flowing. The lyrics dont seem to have any real significance to any major events but they all work well and provide a sort of dream like, non stressful state.
Like most albums Faded Seaside Glamour isnt perfect there are a few weaker tracks on it and there are a couple I could happily listen to over and over again. It did take me quite a few listens to really get properly into the album but once I did Id certainly say it was worth it. In particular the more upbeat Long Time Coming really stands out for me. Gregs vocals seem to reach some pretty high notes and the vocals are really complimented well by the guitars. It has a nice pace about it that really helps to keep it moving and breaks up the mellower tracks just a little.
There are a lot of decent tracks on the album but I did feel that Theres Water Here didnt really fit into the overall feel of the album. Its quite a slow song with no real musical feel to it at all. The track seems to be almost spoken and although Gregs vocals do sound pretty good it feels like it is really lacking something and it takes a lot longer to get into than a lot of the other tracks on the album. On the whole though the album is quite good, there is room for improvement but as far as debuts go its a decent effort.
The band have since returned with their second album, You See Colours, and that is inevitably going to increase the fan base. I would happily recommend The Delays to anyone into Indie music and in particular the more recent Manic Street Preachers albums. It is a decent album and one that has seen The Delays create a small loyal fan base to work on increasing. It has a real Summer feel to it and if your looking for some decent pop songs with a speckling of Indie feel to them then I would suggest buying this album!
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Nearer Than Heaven
3 Long Time Coming
4 Bedroom Scene
5 No Ending
6 You Wear The Sun
7 Hey Girl
8 Stay Where You Are
9 There's Water Here
10 Satellites Lost
11 One Night Away