Delta 5 CD review [Kill Rock Stars]
May 24, 2007, 09:01
DELTA 5 Singles & Sessions 1979-81 CD
Not unlike the Manchester and Liverpool music scenes in the UK of the same time period, Leeds produced quite a few bands that, despite the fact that they were not at the forefront of the pack such as Gang of Four and The Mekons, were still pretty damn good all the same.
Delta 5 was perhaps the best example of this; some of the members having strong ties to the aforementioned bands and one of whom, bassist/vocalist Ros Allen, was an early member of The Mekons. The band's shtick, as it were, was partially due to their 3 to 2 ratio of female to male members and 2 to 1 ratio of basses to guitars. All three of the gals sang; the men never opened their mouths. The music the band made was fun and cerebrally danceable, music made by friends for both parties and discussions.
However, either due to the format of this CD or just to hindsight being 20/20, the band never seems to truly break out of the formula laid down by their marvelous first 45 of "Mind Your Own Business" b/w "Now That You're Gone." Alan Riggs' guitar gets more and more uncomfortably close to Gang of 4's Andy Gill's chop shop funk, demonstrated by the fact that Delta 5's "Make Up" is painfully akin in several ways to Go4's "Not Great Men." While it's certainly good, as this CD progresses it tends to seem a near cloning of, or sadly reliant upon the reminders of, the better known, more popular big brother bands. "Colour" at least adds some horns for a bit of an uptown/NYC flavor and, indeed, new color to the mix, but perhaps Delta 5 knew that they couldn't build a career on this sort of shtick either as it was the B-side of their very last 45. One would hope that Delta 5 weren't forced upon or fell into a marketing ploy of "oh look, it's like Gang of 4 with chick singers." But then again that's just it: what remains compelling throughout Delta 5's music is the vocal arrangements and harmonies by the Julz Sale, Ros Allen, and Bethan Peters. Even if the music doesn't change much, the vocals are always in key, multi-textured, well sung, and constantly interesting.
It may also be that modern bands such as Radio 4, !!!, and The Rapture have rendered the initial attack and impact of what the Leeds bands were doing at the time to the point of anonymity (along with PiL and A Certain Ratio) that whatever nuances might have been noted in the Delta 5's music prior to the year 2000 have now since been blended together into one generic whole. Thus, this results in the thinking that what once may have set Delta 5 apart from the other bands of its time and place now merely labels them as second rate.
All the same, though, this is a nice collection to have as a reference point and to bounce along to. If you can keep yourself from getting too historically pointed about it, this CD is certainly worth your time. [Kill Rock Stars]