Considering the interest in all things post-punk in the 2000s, not to mention the reissues of work by contemporaries like the Au Pairs, Slits, Raincoats, and Liliput, attention to the Delta 5 seems long overdue. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if many people who had heard of the band in recent years knew of the Delta 5 only because of Chicks on Speed’s cover of their definitive single, “Mind Your Own Business,” and although some of their tracks have popped up on compilations here and there, it hasn’t been easy to hear their music. Kill Rock Stars’ collection Singles & Sessions remedies this by serving up the A and B sides of their classic singles, BBC Radio sessions with John Peel and Richard Skinner, and a previously unreleased live 1980 set recorded at Berkeley, CA’s Berkeley Square. Meanwhile, the liner notes offer two different perspectives on the band: Greil Marcus’ in-depth 1980 piece for New West magazine, and a new essay by friend and collaborator Jon Langford. Most important, though, is the band’s music, and while this leftist post-punk outfit from Leeds — which belonged to the scene that also spawned the Mekons and Gang of Four — was part of a movement that tended to shun glamour, there is an undeniable, distinctive style in the group’s sound.
On “Try” and “Now That You’ve Gone,” the Delta 5 are as precise and aloof as any of their better-known post-punk peers. However, along with their economical rhythms and alternately taut and bristling guitars, the band’s layered, interjecting vocals — which turn many of their songs into playful but pointed debates — and their unique dual-bassist lineup add an extra bit of flair and sass to their music. The icy, disdainful wit of “Mind Your Own Business” is emblematic of the band’s attitude on many of the tracks here, but “Anticipation” and “Colour” allow the Delta 5’s joyful and brooding sides to shine through as well. “You” is downright funny and liberating; with lyrics like “Who likes sex only on Sundays? You, you, you!,” it sounds like someone realizing, all at once, everything that’s wrong with and then getting rid of a lover, with pleasure. The tracks from the sessions are nearly as sharp and tight as the singles, with “Make Up”‘s lyrical ambivalence (“Do you wear it? Does it wear you?”) underscoring the Delta 5’s uniquely feminine vantage point and songs like the spooky, evocative “Train Song” and “Final Scene” sending off more sparks than they did on the band’s first (and last) album, See the Whirl (which, hopefully, will be reissued as well). Singles & Sessions does the Delta 5’s music justice; even if they weren’t the most radically inventive group of the post-punk movement, their best work still captures the sound and feeling of that era perfectly.
-Heather Phares, allmusic.com
Delta 5-SINGLES & SESSIONS 1979-81 (2006 compilation)