Delays, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

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The Independent Culture

This week, Southampton's finest release a brand new single with somewhat unseemly haste.

This week, Southampton's finest release a brand new single with somewhat unseemly haste. It feels like only yesterday that we were in the sunshine, soaking up their harmonies and shimmering guitar pop. Maybe their debut material still sounds familiar because they were a regular fixture on the festival circuit, but despite the name, Delays have not hung about.

Faded Seaside Glamour came out only this spring, though their debut single, "Hey Girl" dates back to summer 2003. With such releases, the band laid claim to the underpopulated field of swooning guitar pop, a style that reached via The La's back to The Hollies and The Byrds. Their mix of bright melodies and underlying melancholy was competent enough, though much of their success was thanks to the distinctive high voice of Greg Gilbert.

Also in the mix were Gilbert's cheekbones, a big draw for an audience with relatively high female make-up, especially among the younger teens that sneaked in as guests. So what was billed as a low-key tour already had some of the hormonal vibe of a boy-band gig, something that Delays were keen to use to the full.

Greg teetered on the edge of the stage, guitar held aloft as if raising it in a victory salute. It soon became clear the band were not content to tread water, as he ended the dreamy "Nearer than Heaven" in a startling Robert Plant roar. New material was even more in your face. Guitar effects were cranked up for the Verve-style psychedelic storm of "Out of Nowhere", a sound held for the glam stomp of "Lillian". "Angel" was a potential anthem, though the band's muscularity hid this in a soft-rock pastiche.

With Greg's guitar set to infinity, the drums and keyboards came more to the fore. Drummer Rowley took off his top to reveal a surprisingly muscular torso for someone in a band known for girly pop. It seemed even more odd when he flexed his biceps to lightly tap the cymbals.

An electro pulse to open "Stay Where You Are" reminded us that keyboardist Aaron could carry a tune himself, though it was no preparation for the departure that was new single, "Lost in a Melody". His mighty old-school squelches introduced a Seventies space-disco romp, like Daft Punk and Franz Ferdinand covering "Magic Fly".

This was great fun, though rhythm rather than tune made this the only new number to display the immediacy of their minor hits, such as the vulnerable charm of "Long Time Coming". Delays may yearn for gravitas, but if they get heavy, it could be at the expense of their songs.

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