Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005
Everybody knows that Glasgow is the current Mecca of international indie rock, though there's some debate as to who is its Mohammed. People with long memories will claim it's The Pastels, who first explored the lo-fi, do-it-yourself aesthetic that the city has become famous for way back in the early '80s. Realists will say it's Belle & Sebastian, who made this aesthetic a worldwide commodity in the late '90s.
However, you can't talk about Glasgow's vitality as a creative center without mentioning The Delgados. Their own lively guitar pop combines the raw excitement of '80s groups like The Vaselines and Teenage Fanclub with the more ambitious sensibility of those artists who emerged in the '90s. In fact, by establishing Chemikal Underground Records the group helped launch the careers of many of these '90s artists, like Arab Strap and Mogwai, who have had a hand in pushing rock forward.
The sad and unintended consequence of this development is that their own records have tended to receive less attention, but even by the high standards eventually set by their peers, The Delgados' song-craft remains irreproachable, especially on their new album, the magnificently catchy "Universal Audio," which finds the quartet back in the world of faultlessly sunny music after two harder-edged collections. Calling the record their "long-awaited pop album," the group leavens its normally cheery melodies with a wry melancholy. In the gentle ballad "The City Consumes Us," they even face the fact (after denying it for many years, apparently) that their hometown is the only place they could have produced their art. A fitting tribute.
Feb. 15, 7 p.m., Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka (Smash West,  6535-5569); Feb. 16, 7 p.m., Shibuya Club Quattro, Tokyo (Smash,  3444-6751). Tickets are 5,500 yen in advance.