Back home in Glasgow, the Delgados operate the Chemikal Underground label, which has released records by critical darlings like Mogwai, Bis, and Arab Strap--all of whom have made bigger splashes on both sides of the Atlantic than they have. The name of their new album, accordingly, is Peloton--the cycling term for the riders stuck solidly in the middle of the race. But the record, released in this country by Beggars Banquet, represents a huge surge forward from the quartet's scrappy 1997 indie-pop debut, Domestiques (March), augmenting the standard guitars-bass-drums format with surprisingly effective flutters of flute and strings; rather than paring down the other elements to accommodate them, the band just crams the extra stuff in and somehow it works. The songs convey a restrained British-folk-flavored grace, particularly when Emma Pollock, who sounds a little like Cat Power's Chan Marshall, warbles on pretty tunes like "And So the Talking Stopped" and "Clarinet." But this doesn't stop the guitarists from ripping into punishing 12-string squalls like on "Repeat Failure," the product of a fading My Bloody Valentine influence. Most of the lyrics ponder the vagaries of crumbling relationships, but the occasional keen detail or poetic couplet--"Take the easy way out and I'll meet you at my roof / Making intimacy is an art form of mine," from "Clarinet"--distinguishes them from the self-pitying gibberish indie rockers so often peddle these days. The Delgados may not be the most inventive bunch, but Peloton is proof that attention to detail and solid songwriting can inject life into otherwise dog-eared sounds. This is the band's Chicago debut. Monday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andy Willsher.