Much of what can be said about Universal Audio
is also true of the Delgados' previous albums. Like Hate
and The Great Eastern
, it's beautiful pop in the best sense of the word, and once you start listening, you'll find it incredibly difficult to stop.
That's about all that Universal Audio has in common with the band's previous work. Where the group once seemed content to make melodies that float along atop pretty orchestral arrangements, they've now contrived to break a sweat. Rather than creating an album that thrives on subtlety and mood, as was the case previously, they've embraced the concept of guitar-driven hooks and catchy tunes. It's clearly not a problematic change for them. On "I Fought The Angels" and "Everybody Come Down", for example, they sound like a more memorable version of Drugstore; in the former, frontwoman Emma Pollock reminds us that she's capable of far more muscular work than the airy, twee vocals for which she's often known, while the latter's tune may be the most irresistible thing since The Beatles. Further, The Delgados prove that they can accomplish the same feat with Alun Woodard on lead vocals. "Is That All I Came For?" starts off by hitting the target that Simian were aiming for on We Are Your Friends, then evolves into a pop song and stomps merrily forward.
That's not to say that The Delgados have completely abandoned their more ethereal leanings. "Come Undone" sounds like Portishead in a more upbeat mood, while both "Sink Or Swim" and "The City Consumes Us" float by in a blissfully happy haze. But these are merely interludes, rest stops for the band between poppy explosions like "Girls Of Valour", in which they combine Beach Boy harmonies with Beatlesque melodies to show that, their previous albums notwithstanding, they've truly hit their stride on Universal Audio.