Last week I got to interview Delirious? guitarist Stu G about his new album, book, and film, called Beatitudes. You can listen to the interview here:
It is also worth noting that Delirious? frontman and songwriter Martin Smith has a new band called Army of Bones and they just put out their new album. They are definitely worth a listen. Here are all of their associated websites:
In honor of these Delirious?-related projects I've decided to pay homage to one of my all time favorite bands by looking back at their best tracks. My first article featured 8 songs where Stu G "melted our faces off," and this current article will feature 10 tracks of pure pop/rock genius from Delirious?
When Delirious? first came onto the music scene I was initially excited because there was now a rock band making worship music. That is, someone was writing worship songs for the Church and to God in my vernacular musical language of "rock", "pop", and even some "folk." But then Delirious? changed on us. With the album Mezzamorphis they went "all the way" with what they had hinted at in their previous album King of Fools: they wanted to be a full-on rock band.
And indeed, apart from the album Glo they spent much of the rest of their career attempting to make inroads into the British music charts (and German charts) with a modest amount of short term success, as well as landing a gig as the opening act on one of Bon Jovi's tours. Like many fans, I at first had some trouble with their "secular"-lite songs. Many artists had gone that route, from Amy Grant, to P.O.D., to Switchfoot, and for those of us who saw Delirious? as a "worship" band it felt like the dreaded "selling out" we had seen so many times before.
But it didn't take long for me to get over this bias of what music should be, and for one simple reason: at the end of the day you will always keep on liking a band if they make great tunes, and in my mind Delirious? excelled in that category almost to the very end of their run. One of my only real complaints about Delirious? is not that they stopped making great music, but that they mostly stopped making music that the Church can sing aloud together (but that's another article...)
With all that said, it is worth noting the well-established fact that Delirious? drew a lot of their sound and influence from U2. I am not going to deny this assertion, but I think it's far too limiting of a designation. The question would be: Did they rip U2 off or did they take the bedrock sound of U2 and make it something all their own? I would claim it's mostly the latter, though a number of their songs of course sound U2-esque. In fact, this is either going to make some people mad or it is going to be quite obvious to others, but in my estimation Delirious? were consistently better at crafting tight pop/rock songs than U2 ever were. That is to say, in my estimation Delirious have more finely crafted pop songs per album than U2. On top of this, and again I know there will be many who disagree, but I believe that Martin Smith is at least as good a singer as Bono, and I think Stu G excels (even if just a little) The Edge as a guitarist and songwriter/composer.
But hey, I'm just a blogger with an opinion, which doesn't amount for much, I admit. So, instead of getting in a "who's better" debate, let's simply enjoy some of the best songs Delirious? ever wrote. Here are 10 of their best pop/rock songs, some of which are well-known and some of which are deep-cuts that I believe deserve more attention. (Oh yeah, and when you get a chance please make sure you listen to my interview with Stu G).
"What is this Thing Called Love"
Don't let this little gem of a song from the Cutting Edge days pass you by. It's basically a simple pop/rock folk song. Or you could say it sounds exactly like every other acoustic inflected "contemporary worship song" from the 90's. But listen to how carefully constructed the song is and notice all the little hooks scattered throughout. And notice it is not really a praise and worship song at all, at least it is nowhere near what would typically be sung in church. Instead, the lyrics are contemplative and often abstract. They leave us pondering the future with a profound sense of longing. In many ways it's a song more about the questions of what will be than the assurance of answers. Oh yeah, and it's incredibly catchy...
"All I Want is You"
There are about 2 handfuls of quintessential Delirious? songs that they will most likely be remembered by. These are either the most popular worship songs sung in churches or the most popular singles. In my mind these are: "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", "Happy Song", "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble", "I Found Jesus", "I'm Not Ashamed", "Deeper", "History Maker", "My Glorious", and "Rain Down." You might include a few more, and so be it, but I would want to make the argument that they released equally as good of songs on all their records that didn't get nearly as much attention. This next song is one of those. The first time I heard "All I Want is You" I thought it was a song I heard sung by another band. It was so catchy and so well conceived I didn't think Delirious had written it. It seemed like it had already existed long before.... Again, thematically, this song contains difficult lyrics. It is about self-hypocrisy, disappointment, false idols, and desperate desire to get back to basic principles. For one of the most famous worship groups of all time, Delirious? sure wrote some melancholy and challenging lyrics...(but as long as the songs were catchy, who cares!)
I am not sure how well this song has held up over time (that is, is this now a "cheesy" "old" worship song?) and I'm not sure if any churches sing it anymore, but in my mind "History Maker" is an undeniable classic. Lyrically, it is Delrious?'s thesis statement and manifesto. Musically it obviously finds them sounding a lot like U2 and yet...I can't pinpoint a specific U2 song or how they might be imitating their Irish counterparts except for the...guitars? To me, "History Maker" is the perfect example of how they took the bedrock sound of U2 and made it something wholly (or nearly wholly) their own. Anyway, this is most likely their most well-known song and deservedly so. It's classic Delirious? and it's classic pop/rock music.
"See the Star"
Taken from Mezzamorphis, "See the Star" was the band's highest charting single on the British charts at number 16. Not reflecting the overall harder edge of that album, this song is more of a Beatles-esque homage. It demonstrates the boys trying to write a perfect rock-infused pop song and in my mind they mostly succeeded. This is an anthem to sing at the top of our lungs!
Glo is a worship album of epic proportions. Containing mostly long songs with even longer spontaneous instrumentals, it is also simply a great pop/rock record. I could have chosen a number of songs for this list, including "God You're My God", "My Glorious", "Everything", and "Hang on to You", but I instead chose my favorite song from this collection. "God's Romance" is a worship dance song with a killer hook and an anthemic chorus. I also happen to think it contains some great theology (but that's for another article...).
"Show Me Heaven"
In my opinion "Show Me Heaven" should have been one of the singles off of Audio Lessonover/Touch. It's a monster of a little song. Martin is singing his quirky heart out, bending his vocals all over the place, and this is easily another song where Stu G melts our faces off. His solo in the middle (and the cute way Martin gives him a shoutout) is absolutely heavenly (pun intended). I'm not sure if this is a song about God or great sex, but hey, they're somewhat related, right?
World Service is my favorite Delirious? album and for that reason I've included two worthy tracks on my list. "Rain Down" along with "Majesty" and "Inside Outside" are probable the most well known tracks. "Rain Down" is insatiably catchy. It's breezy and immediately singable. Stu G's guitars in the bridge sound an awfully lot like Brian May and Martin is killing the incredibly high vocals. This is a virtuosic display of pop/rock sensibilities. U2 eat your heart out.
"I'm With You"
To me, this is a song where Tim Jupp's keyboards and Stew Smith's pounding beat shine the most. There are so many great songs on World Service I honestly don't know how this album hasn't gotten more of a reputation as an undeniable classic.
"Here I Am Send Me"
This might be the only rock song I've ever heard about the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. As much as it is a spiritual cry for God to use us for his kingdom it is also just a pulsing good time.
"God is Smiling"
From their swan song Kingdom of Comfort "God is Smiling" features another great opening riff from Stu G and belting vocals from Martin. Jon Thatcher's thudding bass is also prominent. While not every song off this album was memorable, their last album proved they were still capable of top notch music making.