For some it has been clear since the beginning. For others it's taken a little longer, needed a little more time before things have begun to make sense. But standing at the back of a couple of thousand screaming fans and suddenly it's impossible to deny this most simple of truths: Delirious? live is one of the purest highs around. It's a pile-up of fat beats, caustic guitars and 100 ft high choruses, and it's impossible not to rubberneck.
Delirious have been at it for a while now: cutting their teeth in the early 1990s on the obligatory local gigs, home-recorded 'albums' and quick sales from the back of the drummer's Cavalier at the end of the gig in the car park. Bearing in mind that Littlehampton didn't exactly have a pedigree when it came to kick-starting international rock careers, it's not surprising that few expected things to extend far beyond the Cavalier-in-the-car-park scenario. But they did. Word spread and the tapes followed. Invitations to play further and further away from home came in, and the band became a lot more than a part time hobby.
The tension between full time careers and a whole load of travel with the band reached a climax in the summer of 1995 when singer Martin Smith and bassist Jon Thatcher were caught up in a near-fatal car accident late at night. Hospital meant time for reflection, and for Martin that meant one thing: he'd escaped death once, from now on life was for living. Within months the rest of the band had given up their jobs too, the first full length studio album was underway and Delirious was born for real. Oh yes, and they'd set up their own label too: Furious Records, where Stew (drums) handled graphic design, Jon (bass) worked the stockroom, Stu G (guitars) pulled together the overseas gigs, Tim (keyboards) managed the business and Martin (vocals) produced and engineered the tracks.
From that first album (King of Fools, 1997) came the band's first taste of chart success: their radio-friendly pop anthem 'Deeper' entered the UK charts at number 20, as did the bittersweet power-surge of 'Promise'. Both secured significant national media exposure, helped by the album's entry into the charts at number 13. What followed were extensive tours of the UK and their first real introduction to an American audience, and on both sides of the Atlantic the buzz was out: this was one underground group whose ascent to the surface was well underway.
What followed was a period of hard graft and low profiles at home: the initial success of King of Fools had raised more than a few eyebrows, and the early tours had ignited a certain amount of fire in their collective bellies: now was the time to come up with further proof that they really were 'pop's greatest secret' (as Radio 1 dubbed them). The band settled down to recording a new album at the start of 1998, but found themselves caught up in a whirlwind of demans from back in America. Of course the lads took the offers up, and over the course of the next twelve months played to over 500,000 people and shifted more copies of their back catalogue than anyone back home would have thought possible. 'The English' - so their American hosts were fond of saying - 'had invaded'.
Of course, such trans-Atlantic yo-yoing played havoc with the schedules, and their second studio album went through a long labour. Still, by the time release date came around in May 1999, no one was complaining: Mezzamorphis was an absolute stunner. Keeping the radio-friendly vibe of their first offering, the band had managed to move the sound on massively. If King was a carefree 14 year old, Mezza was it's bedroom-barricaded brother. Raw, volatile and just plain HUGE, Delirious had pulled another stunner out of the bag.
While the sound had moved on and the following UK tours noticed a massively increased amount of sweat dripping from the ceilings, the media take-up of the album and single ('See The Star', which charted at 16) was less well advanced. Yet there was little time for getting stroppy as the band were about to go world-wide. From Australia to Sweden, the US, Canada to New Zealand, Delirious' stock had suddenly shot up and everybody wanted a piece of the action. Throughout 1999 and well into 2000 the band set up stall in a bewildering array of new territories, spreading d:vibe and ending up amazed at just how far things had reached ahead of them.
But touring was not all they got up to, and as they spent an increasing amount of time meeting fans who were into the early underground material, thoughts turned once more to the studio. Over the months they pieced together something special. What started out as a low-budget EP gradually became a fully-fledged, impeccably produced album. Yet it remained true to the spirit of the year: underground, for the fans and with inspiration and creativity in the driving seat. The result is Glo, their most intricate album to date. The beats have an extra temper about them, the guitars an added sense of character and the choruses seem to have doubled in size.
And so 2001 offers the chance for all to watch the next stage in Delirious' graduation from underground secret, through tongue-wagging oddity and out the other side of international anthem-makers. They begin the year in the studio working on a new album due to ravish the charts this side of Christmas, and the smart money's on the band taking things to a whole new level. Their power to write beyond themselves - to turn out songs whose success is as hard to define as the tunes are to purge from the mind - is stronger than ever. Early booking is highly recommended.
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