Of all the hand made, post-punk singles covers I have, I think this has to be the most basic: a front cover that’s a plain paper photocopy of a photo of the band with no information on it and which appears to have been cut out as it’s completely the wrong size; at least the back cover has the correct dimensions and contains information about the band; then both these pieces of paper along with the record have been shoved in a plastic bag that clips together like a food bag. Also typical of the time is the mixed sex line up of three girls and two boys and the pot-pourri of influences which they bring to their debut single.
It begins with the sound of a guitar if a shoe box had been hollowed out for elastic bands to be stretched across the cardboard. The brother and sister playing bass and drums underlie the Ray Manzarek like keyboards which slide ominously around the tune as if Charles Manson is stalking Sharon Tate. Vocalist Julie Hepburn begins with a tempting offer of, “Walk with me and see the sights,” before sinisterly declaring, “No fruitless muffled screams / I’m a shadow that can’t be seen.” There then follows a brief Costello like ‘Watching the Detectives’ guitar solo and an equally short bass solo before the chorus kicks in, “Don’t go out after midnight stars / I play my game tous les fois,” and finally warning, “You won’t get far.” As the song progresses the lyrics get even darker, “You can scream and shove / There’s no-one above.” It is a song of mystery and menace. Apart from the mystery of never being quite sure what Ms Hepburn is ultimately planning for her victim, there is the mystery of the song’s title as throughout she appears to be singing, “Tous les fois,” rather than, “Tous les soirs.” The menace is supplied by Hepburn’s vocals which are reminiscent of a female Howard Devoto promising to “drug you and fuck you on the permafrost.”
‘Tous Les Soirs’ is nominally the A side but the two songs on the flip are equally as good. The intro to ‘Gaga’ begins as The Human League before becoming a John Barry score for a spy film. It’s another song where the title is never mentioned although in Hepburn’s pronouncements it’s plain that the song is concerned with mental disintegration as she demands to know, “Why is everyone looking at me?” and how “I think I’m going,” with the gaga left unsaid. However, possibly the finest moment on this single is the final track, ‘Infectious Smile.’ The tune floats gossamer light over a Vini Reillyesque guitar motif as Hepburn ponders the emotional impossibility of feeling good by replicating someone’s smile: “Infectious smile / I’m laughing at you.” It’s a song of emotional sterility whose protagonist pleads, “Don’t touch me / My feelings have run dry.” Hepburn’s vocals are as dead eyed as the lyrics and when she suddenly starts doo dooing what sounds like the Batman theme midway through, it’s a moment where surrealism meets psychedelia.
The Doors, Magazine, John Barry, Elvis Costello, The Durutti Column are all in here somewhere but it’s what The Delmontes have forged from these influences that make them stand apart from the crowd. The men from Delmonte say yes but it’s the girl from Delmonte saying no that makes this band special.