There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Sometimes choosing to break no new ground is the best decision a band can make. Take the Delgados’ new album, Hate, which carries on where their remarkable 2000 release, The Great Eastern, left off. Superproducer Dave Fridmann is still at the controls, giving each and every song an orchestral grandeur that teeters precariously on the edge of total pomposity. And frontpeople Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock remain rock’s most rapturous one-two vocal punch, if a decidedly velvet-gloved one. True, a few of the Glasgow quartet’s newest batch of songs bog down in Fridmann’s heavy-handed production, and the album’s lyrics are, er, somewhat downcast (sample titles: “All You Need Is Hate,” “Child Killers”), but for the most part Hate is every bit as goose-bump-provoking as its predecessor. Like that disc, Hate seems to be a loosely constructed concept album, the concept being that, as Henderson sings on “The Drowning Years,” “Life isn’t precious and life isn’t sacred/Sometimes release only comes when you meet death.” A bummer, sure, but the genius of the Delgados lies in the way they counter their depressing lyrical sentiments with passages of sheer musical bliss. Just check out “If This Is a Plan,” on which Woodward sings, “Well, if this is a plan then I’m dead where I stand…/Hallelujah I’m down and it’s finally happening” amid a swirl of strings and horns such as I expect to hear upon bumping into Elvis Presley in heaven. Or the beguiling “Coming in From the Cold,” which features Pollock wistfully singing, “And everybody’s searching for somebody to hold/Have a look around you there’s no-one there/How can you call this fair?” against a soaring melody that’ll make you forget that you’re dancing with yourself. Sure, that approach goes astray sometimes: Album-opener “The Light Before We Land” conjures memories of orch-rock in its uncool early-’70s version, and the perversely poppy “All You Need Is Hate” sounds a little too close to a Flaming Lips song for comfort. (Those bombastic drums are becoming something of a Fridmann signature.) Still, there’s something gloriously and irresistibly wrong with Henderson’s singing, “Hate is all around, find it in your heart, in every waking sound/On your way to school, work, or church, you’ll find that it’s the only rule…/C’mon, hate yourself” and getting you to sing along. And that’s something we can all love. Michael Little