The Delgados always struck me as a band loved by a section of devotees, and whose excellence was accepted, but almost taken for granted by a wider number of people. I saw them, they were brilliant. I bought The Great Eastern on this basis alone, and enjoyed it. After that I was simply comforted by their existence, and I’ve met plenty of people with similar experiences, at varying stages of the group’s career.
Now they’re no more, The Complete BBC Peel Sessions affirms that the diehards got it right. It serves as a compendium of Delgado goodness for the casual listener and the completist. It’s also a continual reminder of the importance of John Peel to music in Britain and the wider world. He had receptive ears, arbitrarily championing bands simply because he liked their work. Thus we start out with the Beat Patrol sessions from the Radio Scotland show of the same name, forwarded to Peel by producer Stewart Cruickshank and subsequently re-aired throughout the UK. The band sound thrilling, “Lazarwalker” and “Blackwell” attest to the fact that the Pixies’ silent decade was ably compensated for elsewhere. “I’ve Only Just Started to Breathe” sounds as fun and exuberant as These Animal Men, and as cool as music comes. The second, initial Maida Vale session features Domestiques material. “Teen Elf” is more anthemic than I’d ever given them credit for, while “Under Canvas Under Wraps” makes Graham Coxon sound like a lounge act, and is a massive tune which I’ve long danced to drunk without realizing it was a Delgados song.
Throughout these seven (and a bonus) sessions, the quality is consistently high. The band sounds like the perennial big siblings with more interesting records and zero attitude. “Sucrose” whirs like the Jesus of spinning tops. The Peloton era songs tap into a Michael Stipe dreamscape vein. “Everything Goes Around the Water” could seamlessly bridge the finales to Spaced and Reckoning. “Pull the Wires from the Wall” sonically approximates curtains so ornate that they’d be noticed. This was a career that developed while preserving high standards. “Accused of Stealing” and “I Fought the Angels” are stunning songs. They’re in good company here, and all without covering 2002’s superb HATE.
In five years time it will be blatantly obvious to a few more people that the Delgados are a band we’re missing gravely. Still running Chemikal Underground together, let’s hope that their other associated projects are this good.
The Fall – The Complete Peel Sessions
Undertones – Peel Sessions
Boards of Canada – The Peel Sessions