Agony Shorthand

Monday, August 04, 2003
DELTA 5 : “ANTICIPATION IS SO MUCH BETTER” CD….I’ve been waiting years for someone to put together the compleat DELTA 5 collection, and now here it is, in the “semi-legit” CD-R format. If I’m not mistaken, this truly is complete too – all the band’s great early 45s + the mediocre 1981 “See The Whirl” LP. Delta 5 were one of those hardscrabble, working class, factory town English DIY bands you always read about, birthed at the peak of British economic misery and racial/class warfare in 1978 in Leeds, no less – the factory town to end all factory towns. They were one of the first bands I connected with on college radio during my teenage years; KFJC used to play the hell out of their best aggro leftist punk/funk hybird 45s: “Mind Your Own Business”, “You”, “Colour”, “Anticipation” and “Try”. As Trouser Press put it in their capsule summary of the band,

“Delta 5 display up-to-the-minute beat consciousness welded to songs of emotional discontent. Double female vocals in pronounced British accents are backed by whomping rhythm (two guitars, two basses) and occasional splashes of musical color (brass, keyboards, pedal steel guitar). Semi-cryptic lyrics, full of striking images, are worth the strain needed to pull them out of the seething mass. Jagged music for jagged times”

Those early 45s are golden – totally thumping, bass-heavy grooveathons with heavy doses of bile and anger. Exceptionally well-played, too – unlike, say, the AU PAIRS or the US’s BUSH TETRAS, Delta 5 were solidly in command of their unique rhythm and never let it get particularly messy. The vocalist sounds like a frustrated English schoolmarm just chomping at the bit to punch someone out. Their ultimate trajectory is very similar to that of their Leeds compatriots the GANG OF FOUR, who darted from the sharp and angular, tough-sounding early records to their new wave wimp-out “Songs Of The Free” (I’ll caveat that by saying I actually dig that record and its hit 45 “I Love a Man In a Uniform”). I bought “See The Whirl” in the early 80s and was really disappointed after the creative stomp of the first 45s & sold it back quickly. It’s not that bad, really, just uneven and lacking the sort of structured, single-minded intensity that made their early records such a revelation. There’s a little “new wave” meandering and a few song lengths that go unchallenged, but the core horns, female vocals & double bass are still front, center, and loudly braying all over the place. Overall, you’ve got a capsule package that is close to 78 minutes of top-drawer UK post-punk rhythm, hopefully legitimately released in the near term.