Review: Delta 5, ‘Singles and Sessions, 1979-81’

Kill Rock Stars releases a reissue of formative English post-punk band Delta 5\’s singles and sessions on vinyl.

Album cover. Courtesy: Kill Rock Stars

Delta 5 probably made my career as a DJ. I always knew I could put on “Mind Your Own Business” and the floor would be filled with people dancing. It is an infectious slab of funky post-punk that wriggles into your brain and gets the listener’s body moving. 

And it stays with you…often as you’re walking to work hungover after a night of dancing. The listener will hum along to the lyrics, repeating, “Can I have a taste of your ice cream? NO! Mind your own business!” over and over. 

The truth, though, is that despite it being Delta 5’s most well-known song, “Mind Your Own Business” is not their only song.  This collection of singles proves that they had many songs worth recognizing, especially for their contribution to an emerging scene of early 80s feminist post-punk bands.

All the outfit’s early singles are genuine floor fillers, and this collection gathers them all for you. Like their Leeds brethren Gang of Four, Delta 5 dealt in funky disco-influenced post-punk with a mix of chic guitars, punk aggression from the Clash, breaks from James Brown records, and the bass from Funkadelic colliding to form the sound of both Leeds bands. Delta 5 even employed two bass guitars interlocked together to further propel their low end. The bass patterns form angular poly-rhythms with the drums’ metronomic disco beats accented by minimal yet effective guitar.

Delta 5 wrote songs about failed relationships and the shortcomings of romance—the literal excitement and disappointment in the other sex, relationship, or partner. Songs like “Anticipation,” “You,” and “Try” examine sexual dynamics in microscopic details of personal insecurity and desire. These topics are dissected, but remain catchy and fun songs you can dance to! Another perfect example is the song “Make-up” that discusses how make-up can be both liberating and subjugating to those who wear it. Here, the personal truly becomes the political. Delta 5 asks the listener, “Do you wear it or does it wear you?”—beckoning the listener to think about the products they buy and their notions of beauty. 

Clearly the influence of bands like Delta 5, along with the Slits, Au Pairs, and X-Ray Spex, would later be passed on to the Riot Grrrl bands of the ‘90s (such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and others). Independent label Kill Rock Stars, which was founded in 1991, was home to several of the key Riot Grrrl bands. Even though KRS put out this reissue in 2006 on compact disc, they have reissued the collection for the first time on vinyl—the obvious format of choice for this release.

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