I Didn’t Fight the Law and We Both Won

I recently rejoined E-Music, after having canceled my subscription out of frustration with their utter lack of selection. When I canceled, probably two years ago now, they were trumpeting their selection of Rolling Stones albums but telling me I couldn’t get Band of Horses because Sub-Pop was a subsidiary of some major label. I have always supported E-Music’s desire to forefront “independent” artists but I figured since they were pushing a band that has, in my lifetime, become the biggest rock whores since Kiss (if I’ve alienated any Kiss fans by making that statement, um, good. Fuck Kiss. Also, I’m not impugning the Rolling Stones’ work prior to 1980, but I defy you to name one – or even half of one – good album they’ve made since then. And if you say A Bigger Bang, I will find you. And I will hurt you*), they might also decide to carry a band that doesn’t get much mainstream attention. However, E-Music has recently expanded their selection (they even have Sub-Pop now, but Band of Horses is no longer with the label) and wooed me back and I’m happy to report that I am ecstatic with their service thus far.

One big reason I’m re-smitten with E-Music is that I frequently log on to find a new release that I didn’t know was coming (it happens, kids. I’m just a guy in a tiny apartment, trying to figure out what to listen to). One day, not too long ago, I found a new release by former Delgados vocalist Emma Pollock. I nearly jumped out of my chair with giddy excitement. I literally couldn’t hit the “Download Album” button fast enough. I nearly sent a gooey, gushy thank-you email to E-Music, just for having The Law of Large Numbers on their front page when I woke up that Sunday morning. Because I love Emma Pollock and the Delgados that much.

See, there are two groups of people I am honor-bound to support: former Firefly cast members (even if they’re on  shows as fuck-terrible as V and Terminator: The Not Enough Summer Glau Chronicles) and former Delgados. I have said, time and time again that the Delgados were one of the most underrated bands of all time and I have made it a prime directive of the Bollocks! organization** to alert the world to the necessity of a Delgados reunion (and U.S. tour). Supporting Firefly refugees has been a mixed bag; I enjoy Castle and Chuck, but I believe I’ve made my feelings clear about the alien show and the robots-from-the-future show. Supporting former Delgados has been better – I like the debut solo albums from Emma Pollock and Alun Woodward (Watch the Fireworks and Lord Cut-Glass, respectively), both of which featured Pollock’s husband (and fellow former Delgado) Paul Savage on drums. But both of those albums caused me to think, “Imagine how awesome that would be with the other Delgados  on it!”

While nothing will ever entirely put to bed my very public (and possibly disturbing) desire to see a Delgados reunion (and U.S. tour, dammit!), Emma Pollock’s latest, The Law of Large Numbers, has finally quieted me down a bit on the topic (though you might not know it from the first few paragraphs of this post). I am, in fact, now forced to eat my words, uttered in my review of Woodward’s Lord Cut-Glass, that “I hope Emma Pollock abandons work on her new album” (I uttered those words hoping to foment a Delgados reunion. I honestly hope Pollock continues making music, in whatever capacity, forever and ever. Amen) I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that The Law of Large Numbers is the best album involving a Delgado since their 2002 masterpiece, Hate. Pollock has really stepped out on her own with this album, fearlessly blending musical styles and sonic approaches into ten tracks (the album is bookended by instrumentals, both called “Hug the Piano”) that are spirited, fun, and fucking beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong – Delgados fans won’t be alienated by The Law of Large Numbers; there are even a couple of tracks that sound like logical steps from Universal Audio. But any fan of the Delgados, who follows my policy of supporting them in their post-band (and pre-reunion) efforts will be encouraged by the versatility and confidence that Emma Pollock displays on this album.

Though the album feels like it was largely written on piano (and there are great piano tracks here, like “House on the Hill”), it’s Pollock’s voice that will command all of your attention. She is mournful (“House on the Hill”), mocking (“Nine Lives”), coy (“Confessions”) and flirtatious (“The Loop”, which is built almost entirely around Pollock’s voice and is a three and a half minute argument for Why You Need This Album). Many of the tracks feature harmonies (some of which, I believe, are Pollock harmonizing with herself) that augment the complex, indelible melodies without overpowering them. There is a sense of balance on The Law of Large Numbers that was not as evident to me on Watch the Fireworks.

The Law of Large Numbers, like Hate, is an album that seems to never stop rewarding repeated listens. Call it the Law of Never-Diminishing Returns. Every time I listen to The Law of Large Numbers, I find something else to like about it. As I write this, I’m listening to the album and am struck by the little background elements (vocal parts, hand claps, chimes and bells, distorted guitars, et cetera) that add a perfect texture to these songs; when Pollock needs to drives something home, the background elements drop out and you’re left with her voice and maybe a piano. The Law of Large Numbers is a clean, shiny, pop/rock album that manages to never feel overproduced, despite its abundance of musical ideas.

So even if the Delgados never get back together (they’ll get back together), Emma Pollock has given us a lot to be grateful for with The Law of Large Numbers. Now if we can just get her to play some shows in the United States (her website is listing some shows ’round the U.K., but none over here). I’ve got an idea. Listen to The Law of Large Numbers and if (if? when) you love it as much as I do, help me start a grassroots movement to fund an Emma Pollock tour of the U.S. We can take donations, try to find sponsors, whatever it takes. Fuck those illiterate teabaggers, let’s start a movement that will actually do something positive for our country. I bet we can even spell our signs correctly.

*Although it is said that a comedian is someone who knows a good joke when he steals one, I’m going to give credit for that line to Lewis Black, because he said it first and because I’m pretty sure that, despite my apparent advantages of youth, energy, and speed, he could still kick my ass.

** We’re totally not an organization.


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