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The Delgados - Hate

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Artist: The Delgados

Album: Hate

Label: Mantra

Review date: Feb. 23, 2003

Devoutly Negative Brilliance

The 90s saw the rain-soaked streets of Scotland turn into one of rock’s most fertile breeding grounds. From the heart-on-sleeve power pop of Teenage Fanclub, to the Beta Band’s dope-soaked psychedelia and the wise-ass smart boy folk of Belle and Sebastian, Glasgow soon became a pop Shangri-La – birthing a far more exciting crop of artists than Seattle ever did.

The Delgados are elder statesmen of the Scot scene. As owners of Chemikal Underground records, the group launched the careers of Mogwai and Arab Strap, along with other UK indie acts. Stepping away from the biz, the band worked towards perfecting their own orchestral, broken-hearted pop. Each release saw the band coming closer to their goal, culminating with the release of 2000’s near-perfect The Great Eastern. Produced by sonic madman Dave Fridmann, famous for his work with Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips, the album glistened with cool, hushed vocals and massive, stadium-ready instrumentals.

Hate, the group’s fourth full-length, picks up directly where The Great Eastern left off. Though the group claims that Fridmann barely touched the tracks, the album bears further proof of his influence. Loud, large and unrelenting, Hate is stunning, orchestral pop. Singer-guitarists Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock’s lyrics are as clever as usual, yet their usual childish romanticism has been replaced with a much darker worldview. Where The Great Eastern was an album of shimmering innocence, Hate is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – dressing death and depression in the cozy warmth of strings.

“The Light Before We Land” starts things off with an orchestral swell and operatic voices before shattering under the fuzzed crunch of Paul Savage’s drums. Pollock’s little girl vocals creep through the melody before exploding into a cathartic sing-along chorus. “All You Need Is Hate” is another candy-coated downer. Rolling drums and circling synths play around stately piano chords and Woodward’s monotone vocals. “C’mon Hate yourself,” Woodward cries as the song climaxes in an orgy of crashing orchestration.

As with The Great Eastern, there are no duds on Hate. However, the album’s centerpiece is the seven-minute epic “Child Killers,” – at once the darkest and most sonically inventive track on the disc. Beginning as a captivating ballad, the track builds on an understated guitar line and Woodward’s declaration “How can I find what’s right / the truth is our lives were shite / what’s the point to you?” Suddenly giant waves of strings crash in as Pollock joins and the duo sing “Maybe soon we’ll find peace in another world / say goodnight.” Gorgeous and heartwrenching, the track is the perfect summation of Hate’s beautiful horror.

The only thing that bogs down Hate is its similarity to The Great Eastern. While the later provided such a powerful leap forward for the band, Hate feels more like a companion piece than a similarly spectacular leap. Nonetheless, the Delgados have proven yet again that they are one of the best – if chronically underappreciated – bands in rock, and are ready to lead the Glasgow scene into the 21st century.

By Ethan Covey

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