I had a real problem with See The Whirl when I was younger. By the time I'd "discovered" them, the Delta 5's original run of inspirational Rough Trade 45s was already held in high esteem & this, the only full length record they released during their brief tenure, had been written off as a compromised, embarrassing major label failure, & I was one of it's many dissenters. Nowadays, predictably, I beg to differ...
Delta 5 were the third, lesser known wing of the Leeds University art school post-punk triumvirate, alongside The Mekons & Gang Of Four. Inspired by the formers' galvanising concept of "spontaneous amateurism", all 3 bands gestated in catalytic tandem, initially sharing a rehearsal room, instruments & a homemade p.a. system. Additionally, D5 bassist Ros Allen played in an embryonic version of The Mekons, while Mekons' guitarist Jon Langford doubled up with the D5 at a handful of early shows & designed some of their sleeves. It was this fledgling line-up's demo tape that caught Geoff Travis's ear & led to Rough Trade releasing the D5's defining "Mind Your Own Business" 7", a mutant 2-bass dancefloor throb that combined the GO4's conversational left wing ideologies & abrasive punk-funk with the radical feminist dialogue & amateurist "make-do" collectivism of The Raincoats.
Following a couple more well-received R.T. 45s & a triumphant American tour (with GO4 & Pere Ubu), the band left Rough Trade for PRE, the "cool" subsidiary of the terminally un-hip Charisma label (home of Genesis & Lindisfarne) who had already poached (&, some might say, debilitated) The Scars, Tuxedomoon, & The Monochrome Set from the independents. Though the band's attempts to engage with a larger audience made complete sense (GO4, remember, were much bigger in America than at home by this point), the commercial concessions demanded by Pre were more than likely doomed from the outset. Though lyrically as barbed & articulate as ever, it's polished production meant that the resulting See The Whirl LP being quickly dismissed as a bowdlerised & bloodless affair by band, fans & critics alike. Embellished with all manner of "unnecessary" additional instrumentation - & featuring Bad Manners' horn section on several tracks! - it sounds (on reflection) like a Marxist Haircut 100 in places, though the fractured guitar discord of old still simmers beneath it's lavish veneer (on the lacerating "Journey", for example - possibly my favourite D5 song). A disillusioned Delta 5 fell apart shortly thereafter, releasing a final single, the oft-overlooked "Powerlines", before retreating into obscurity. Typing this, it feels like I've read heard this story a thousand times before: best intentions, scuppered by a predominant obligation to recoup.
Surprisingly, Kill The Whirl has never been reissued, though Seattle's Kill Rock Stars valiantly attempted to address matters with 2006's Singles & Sessions 1979-81 compilation - collating the Rough Trade 7"s, some Charisma-era B-sides & various BBC recordings to present an alternative, & much harsher, version of the PRE LP - the one the band themselves perhaps wishes they'd released?
N.B. Ros Allen provides several insights into the band's formation & break-up here.