Singles & Sessions 1979-81
Kill Rock Stars
by Simon Reynolds
Delta 5 emerged from the same Leeds, England postpunk scene as Gang of Four and the Mekons. All three bands clustered around the university’s Fine Art department, which goes some way to explaining the almost conceptual starkness of Delta 5’s sound and their unusual format (two basses, three female voices, one guitar, one drum kit). Stern and clenched, Delta 5’s minimalist punk-funk has obvious debts to Gang of Four. “Mind Your Own Business”, their debut single, is a sister-song to “At Home He Feels Like A Tourist.” Both tunes resemble diagrams of disco, bearing the same relationship to Chic and Earth Wind & Fire that an architect’s blueprint bears to the finished building, or a skeleton has vis-à-vis a fully-fleshed body. The person-is-political lyric explores the tension between intimacy and autonomy, oscillating from bleakness (“listen to the distance between us”) to the simultaneously absurd and disturbing chorus “can I have a taste of your icecream?/can I lick the crumbs from your table?/can I interfere in your crisis?/NO, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!”. The sense of alienation is intensified by the way the unison vocals of Julz Sale, Bethan Peters, and Ros Allen alternately mesh and slip out of alignment. If “Mind” is one of UK postpunk’s all-time most thrilling singles, the follow-up, “Anticipation” b/w “You,” is close on its heels. “Anticipation” evokes the nervous excitement of sexual longing prior to consummation; “You” flashes forward to the getting-stale-and-slightly-sour stage of the settled, long-term relationship. Sales hurls out hilariously mundane accusations like “who left me behind at the bakers?/who likes sex only on Sunday?”. “Try”, their third single, also depicts a relationships in terms of friction and miscommunication, but is more poignant than recriminatory. After these three brilliant singles for the legendary independent label Rough Trade, Delta 5 signed to a major label and cluttered up their sound with embellishments in a misguided bid for pop color. This compilation shrewdly bypasses that phase of failed crossover in favour of more spartan-sounding BBC Radio sessions and live performances from a 1980 Berkeley, California gig, thereby capturing the group’s paradoxical vibe of dour exuberance and grim glee in its absolute prime.
THE AU PAIRS
Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology
by Simon Reynolds
Coming out of the same politicized postpunk scene as Gang of Four, the Au Pairs
purveyed a similar style of stern and slightly clenched-ass funk. On tracks like “It’s Obvious” and “Love Song”, tough bass-riffs and scritchy rhythm guitar mesh with singer Lesley Woods’ rasping scorn to create a coldly thrilling friction. The Au Pairs were committed feminists (hence the band’s name--exploited female workers, get it?) and their strongest songs mined the tense terrain of love-as-a-battlefield. Highlights include a glassily hypnotic version of "Repetition", Bowie’s wife-abuse vignette from Lodger, and “Come Again”--a duet between Woods and guitarist Paul Foad which depicts a “progressive” couple grimly struggling to achieve orgasmic equality in the boudoir. But the power of dour soon wears thin on this excessively all-inclusive anthology, whose two discs scoop up every last note--B-sides, EP tracks, radio sessions, plus two studio albums--the group recorded.