Rhythm & Views

Delta 5

Delta 5 were unsung quasi-heroes of the late '70s post-Pistols, British art-punk scene--a Leeds-based quintet comprising three women and two men, who recorded a handful of groundbreaking singles, some rare live and in-studio radio broadcasts, and a disappointing album. Though closely associated with fellow UK leftist-punk acts Gang of Four and the Mekons, Delta 5, because of their strong female presence, had more in common with Au Pairs, the Raincoats and American allies the Bush Tetras, all of whom executed argumentative, biting dance-funk music.

Delta 5 songs are basically about the emotional chasm between the sexes; they didn't so much try to close the gaps as decipher their complexity. On the emotionally flammable "You," Delta 5 spit lyrics like "Who forgot to phone last Tuesday? You / Who only likes sex on Sundays? You, you, you." They constructed songs by repetition: repetition of voices--utilizing harmonies, chants and call and response maneuvers--and repetition of words--patterns of simple lyrics, at first, seemingly naïve and simple, then suddenly aggressive and sinister.

Uniquely propelled by twin basses, their disdainful 1979 debut single, "Mind Your Own Business," was lyrically caustic, thought-provoking and compulsively danceable, with aggressive atonal guitar and chanted words ("Can I have a taste of your ice cream? / Can I lick the crumbs from your table? / Can I interfere in your crisis?") which all complemented the snarling, fractured beat. Ultimately, Delta 5 exposed the paranoia and claustrophobia inherent in relationships, stressing a theme of perceptible hopelessness and the irresolvable differences between two people.

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