Chemikal Underground - 2004 - 40 minutes

The moody, intricate music of The Delgados shone darkly on their last album 'Hate'. The kind of lush orchestration for which they should have been more famous neared perfection with that 2002 release. 'Universal Audio', the fifth album from the Glaswegians, strips away the layers of strings and heavy-handed production to reveal the vibrant pop sensibilities that only coloured the edges of their earlier work.

This is an album that champions simplicity, seeming almost skeletal in comparison to previous releases. The opening chords of 'I Fought the Angels' ring out clearly beneath the Emma Pollock vocals that open the album, the lack of adornment showing just how robust the raw material remains. As always, having a choice of vocalists provides the group with an added facet and her co-singer, Alun Woodward, takes the lead on 'Is This All That I Came For?'; its relentlessly upbeat melodies containing echoes of early REM amid the jangling guitars.

The songs throughout are streamlined and concise, each one ruthlessly refused the time to outstay its welcome. Moulding these short pop statements into a coherent album, given the frequent changes in both tempo and vocalist, is a challenge which is impressively overcome. The well-chosen running order allows the album reach a peak of sorts with the gentle sweep of 'The City Consumes Us', with Pollock's vocals quietly soaring.

Although The Delgados have built a career making music which has blossomed away from the midday glare of the media spotlight, this album represents a conscious step in its direction, filled with songs that could comfortably nestle within the playlists of mainstream radio.

Ray Donoghue

Tracklisting: I Fought the Angels – Is This All That I Came For? – Everybody Come Down – Come Undone – Get Action! – Sink Or Swim – Bits of Bone – The City Consumes Us – Girls of Valour – Keep On Breathing – Now and Forever