"The Great Eastern" was The Delgados' breakthrough album...the first album that really defined The Delgados' sound after two somewhat unfocussed rookie and sophomore releases (1997's Domestiques and 1999's Peloton). It combines their abilty to write catchy songs, as well as beautiful epic ones in a perfect balance/consistency, unlike"Hate" and "Universal Audio', but fewer real highlight tracks. Still it's a marvelous record.
Let's go through the tracklisting...
01 The Past That Suits You Best
The album starts with a pretty epic tune. Very depressing trumpet intro, with equally depressing vocals. A snare based rythm emerges supported by mere single piano hits that are in synch with Aluns vocal melody, giving the song a pretty eerie uneasy feel. At one point Emma provides light backing vocals, as they sing the lyrics simultaneously. The song seems to build up and become more arranged...but not steadily. It's a very ugly song as far a mood goes. I like the part where there is just piano...and strange noise surrounding it...very dark and creepy, while the piano does have somewhat of an uplifting tone. The distorted noise takes somewhat of a rythm, but doesn't sound like it's part of the music. But then...it unfolds in a beautiful, slow, peaceful (anti-)climax. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Great stuff.
02 Accused Of Stealing
Starts with a simplistic guitar progression...Emma's vocals come in...along it a straight up tom-based drum loop. There comes a very nice dreamy piano part, that suddenly unfolds in a very melacholic light-footed waltz. Alun provides light backing vocals. I like the sudden transitions between the different parts of the track. In the second verse a nice folky strings set the mood wel. It's a very nice relaxing song. It's not obvious in a very obvious beautiful way, with lots of cool lil' twists. The short dreamy ambient part with the vibraphone and descending accordion is really cool.
03 American Trilogy
This is the first Delgados song I've ever heard! For a Delgados' song, this one is pretty regular...Alun is mostly the one who sings the depressers, Emma usually sings more uplifting, touchy feely songs. It has quieter verses, and large epic chorusses, which is very common with the Delgados. I like the piano melodies in the verses, it sounds like a melody a music box would play. The lyrics seems to be about constantly fighting depressing feelings, and finding ways to get past them. The song ends with a brief piano section, attacked by the empty drum break that kicks off the climatic chorus. It's a solid track, but nothing more.
04 Reasons For Silence ( Eds Song)
A very Radiohead-like song in my opinion. It's a very strange contrast...the echoing sonar like riff makes the song sound cold and distant, but those acoustic chords give a certain warmth and intimacy that reminds me of something on Radioheads masterpiece "The Bends". The drums fade and Emma starts to sing with her acoustic guitar, backed up by Aluns vocals eventually. I love Emma's vocals in this song...she never shows off her vocals. She just sings, and let's the tone and melody of her voice speak for itself. Drums come in, kablam! Beautiful string arrangements here, almost exotic, as if they are holding on the bassline for a humpy ride...definately a big highlight on "The Great Eastern, despite the songs moderately short length.
05 Thirteen Gliding Principles
Acoustic chords building a moody tension...Alun and Emma exchange vocals as the lyrics are sung. Cool! I like how the drums very gradually surface, before going into a very arranged, folky chorus. woohaah! After that the song seems to be in some sort of trance...it sounds like shoegaze in 3/4 without them My Bloody Valentine-esque unrecognisable miffed vocals. Alun and Emma both have very clear voices, so it's easy to make out the lyrics. It becomes even better when a very high tuned guitar strums slighly in the background....it adds so much. The song becomes heavier...firing a rythmic, assault backed by distorted guitars. Orgasm no. 3...all in one song...and orgasm no. 4 is right ahead...with this amazing middle eastern flute solo paving it's way through the wall of sound like an asp!!!! Amazing. Best song on this album...goink!
06 No Danger
An epic singalong...every Delgados album has a singalong pop song...this is the singalong pop song of "The Great Eastern". It's got a good intro, with piano and strings. When Alun starts to sing, which is definately the chorus melody chord...you can tell even the first time around when you hear this. The piano builds up melody chords...until the drums come in. I love the bassline in this song...simple but effective. The chorus is very catchy and jumpy. It goes back to the intro melodies for a mo...but with slighly more effect when it's backed with a higher tuned wave of strings. The song becomes a bit more heavy, with distorted guitars, guided by the piano chords of the intro. It unfolds in one wall of sound almost..with piano chords hit almost maniacally.
07 Aye Today
Alun sings softy guided by nice guitars and a soothing flute. The song sounds sort of hollow with the echoing drums...but when Emma's vocals come in, it shifts to a far more pleasant state. The chorus is typical Delgados...that's the best way to explain it. Nice melodies...a bit more introvert than the previous two tracks. Sounds a bit like "American Trilogy"...especially the chorus.
Starts immediately with drums, guitar and Emma's vocals. The chorus is really nice...it reminds me of another song, but I don't recall which one. It's very jumpy, hopeful and earnest...it just soars. In te second verse it seems to build up like a royal flush. There is a brief organ part, with Emma's guitar blending in very nicely. The string melody of the chorus emerges...before snapping up, into the regular chorus again. Nice!
09 Knowing When To Run
A slower song, with a very heavy 3/4 beat. The string melody riff thingumbabob is somewhat of theatrical nature. Some subtle guitar work. Alun is on main vocals, Emma is backing vocals. Before the chorus when the drums stop briefly, the song sounds like of rattled and off guard.
10 Make Your Move
A very minimalist piano song with Emma on vocals. It's a pretty depressing track. There is a very somber flute, and the guitar exchanges well with the piano melody. There is some out of tune guitar that sounds a bit like The Flaming Lips. Emma seems to sing a bit in a lower tone than usual, a bit more static...not as effortlessly weathering through your ears. It's a pretty solid closer, but it doesn't really go anywhere. It can be described as a lone barrel on a huge sea with it's lights flickering. It's a song that struggles. Did that make sense?
"The Great Eastern" is a very pleasant listen because the songs even each other out well...there is a nice hopeful almost weightless mood to the album, like a journey through space before coming down to earth , whereas "Hate" (which i reviewed recently as well), gives you a very heavy heart and seems to crash down because of gravitational pulling everytime the album is ready to soar. They are basically yin and yang. "The Great Eastern' does feel as an album as a whole, and more than a collection solid tunes. Still, the music remains simply on a solid height, with a few peaks there that shine really bright.