It’s 16 years since the Avalanches’ era-defining ‘Since I Left You’. How can a follow-up that took so long sound so meh?
Delays : Becky Matthew's House, Muswell Hill, Monday Nov 20
Former mild-mannered schroomadelicists take over one fan's house - soon they're 'gaying up' and selling the furniture…
The guerrilla gig, it has to be said, is not one of life’s more complex artforms. It should, in theory, involve a couple of ‘musicians’ found decomposing in a Whitechapel gutter, a handful of cheap speed and a bassist determined to drink his way through the medicine cabinet. Nobody, however, appears to have mentioned this to the Delays.
They’ve agreed to play a gig at competition-winner Becky Matthew’s house, and arrive armed with stacks of amps, their own sound technician and a miniature pyrotechnics display (OK, so it’s actually just some cheapo Christmas lights but you get the picture). When they soundcheck – and how many guerrilla gigs get a soundcheck? – the noise is crystal clear and packs enough sonic force to terrorise the Richter scale (or at least annoy the hell out of Mrs Reeves and her Yorkshire terrier next door). “Well, you gotta do it properly, haven’t you?” winks keyboardist Aaron Gilbert as he unloads his gear.
So welcome to the least-DIY guerrilla gig ever. Not that it’s all been ultra-professional plain sailing. As NME arrives, housemates are frantically moving fridges around, removing legs from tables and generally creating a gig venue out of what once was a dining area. Things seem to be going to schedule before a crisis emerges: with all the band’s high-tech gear supping the reserves of the National Grid, there’s not enough money left on the meter to power it. It’s up to lead singer Greg Gilbert to leg it down to the store for a top-up card. Bless. Elsewhere, things remain frightfully civilised, what with the Pringles laid out and a neat queue forming for the toilets.
By midnight, we’re secretly hoping for the living room to have been dismantled, the queue for the toilets transformed into a mutant orgy and for the band to have sold all the furniture for smack. But we’re not optimistic. We venture upstairs only to find the entire band in bed with Becky. Hmmm… that’s more like it.
Showtime signals a stampede from all directions, people jostling for prime positions as the venue becomes ever more sardine-like. There’s more than a handful of older songs in tonight’s set – all swoonsome pop melodies and wibbly electronic squiggles. But it’s the new material, like current single ‘Lost In A Melody’, that raises a sharp middle finger in the direction of fungally-enhanced NME sub-genres, ditching hazy psychedelia for a throbbing, disco stomp. Best of all is ‘Valentine’, which Greg correctly pinpoints as “sounding just like Donna Summer”. A full-on Studio 54 pounder, it would surely cause a dancefloor frenzy were Becky’s house to have a dancefloor in the kitchen.
Through the crisp sound it’s clear that Greg has the most unusual voice in indie-pop: part throaty rasp, part Cocteau Twin falsetto, sometimes morphing the two together in such smooth succession that we’re not entirely sure if he’s 100 per cent human. Certainly, he’s not going to let the smaller venue dampen his enthusiasm, thrashing into his guitar in such a frenzy that he ends up tumbling to the floor. It’s all rather surreal: on the stairs, people are cramped up in various positions, contorting themselves into bizarre new shapes in the hope of sneaking a glimpse through the gaps in the banister.
Becky, meanwhile, is down the front phoning her brother to tell him that the Delays are playing in her front room. And for a few seconds the venue blacks out because somebody’s leaned on the light switch (bassist Colin Fox then starts toggling it for a full-on strobe effect). Delays finish with ‘Long Time Coming’, still the best Blondie-ingesting-helium pop tune we could name this year, and so joyous the crowd threaten to pogo themselves into the pantry.
It’s all got a little messy. Super-fan Tamar is nursing a bruised chin after getting thwacked in the cheek by Colin’s bass. One brave-faced housemate returns home late from work to find her bedroom ‘converted’ into a makeshift dressing room. And to top it all, a half-finished packet of Pringles has been scattered mercilessly across the floor. There’s horror in the lounge area as well: someone has put The Bluetones on the stereo. It’s clearly time for us to leave. But, before we go, we’re cornered by the band’s micro-fanclub Baby Delays, who have all manner of sordid secrets to reveal about their innocent-looking indie heartthrobs. Perhaps it’s because Delays have now left the building that they’ve decided to disclose these scurrilous truths, but more than likely it’s because they’re all sozzled senseless. Here’s the story of what happened before NME arrived (all facts remain unconfirmed by the band at time of going to press)...
Becky: “Colin and Greg totally gayed up in my bathroom.
I walked in and went, ‘Shit! What are you doing in my house?!’”
Zara nods sombrely: “And they’ve sold Becky’s kitchen table…”
Tamar: “…for smack!”
We knew it! What else?
All: “They’ve all got a fetish for wearing fishnet tights!”
Remember, you heard it all first at Becky’s house…
A sequel that’s faster, flashier and more bombastic than the original
The sequel to Independence Day has been 20 years in the making, and it’s quite stupid but kinda fun
Minus Tom DeLonge, the pop-punk icons prove their worth on album seven
Mount returns both fearless and eccentric on bold new album