Have you heard of the Waco Siege? A failed rock star from Houston named Vernon Wayne Howell came across a bible opened at Isaiah 34, where he read: “Look in the scroll of the LORD and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together.” Vernon found God and became convinced he was the Messiah. Some years later and Vernon, now calling himself David Koresh, had founded a compound deep in Waco which was home to almost one hundred Branch Davidians. The compound was a shady place; Koresh ordered that any marriages become dissolved upon entering the compound, and he consequently took his pick of the women, believing that God had commanded him to go forth and multiply. In 1993, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms got wind that there was something going down in Waco; and so began the Waco Siege, which saw the deaths of almost one hundred Branch Davidians.
This tale of religious fanaticism, sex, politics, humanity and rock ‘n’ roll is unlikely but perfect concept album material. The Indelicates, hailing from Lewes, have done just that; their third album (released on their own entirely independent online record label, Corporate Records) was partly recorded in the Texas desert and partly at producer Brian O’Shaughnessy’s (Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Beth Orton) studio in London. It has the witty drama of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, in parts funny (The Road from Houston to Waco’s chorus features the line “ma daddy was a carpenter, ma maw was jus’ fourteen” to a lovely three part choir) and devastating (the album’s final track, Gethsemane, has the frightening feel of being at the very heart of the siege, as the chorus of Davidians chant “David be the death of me/past and future cease to be.”)
The Waco Siege is still delicate material for some; there are survivors, such as the voice of the young girl presented in A Single Thrown Grenade, and of course the remaining families of those who were killed during the siege. Writing, a musical about the subject runs the risks of being over-ambitious and difficult. However, the Indelicates have handled the story – and it is an excellent story – so well that it is both a wonderful, catchy pop album about a troubled cult leader and a haunting piece of history captured in twelve songs. It is at no points tasteless or unnecessarily bleak, although the album is overwhelming: from the opener Remember the Alamo to the final track Gethsemane you can feel the oppressive heat of the Texan desert and the eyes of the world on Koresh as the media frenzy begins to snowball towards him.
With their trademark lyrical precision and smooth pop melodies, and featuring guest vocals from Carter USM’s Jim Bob, David Devant and his Spirit Wife’s Vessel and Philip Jeays, this is unquestionably the Indelicates’ best album yet. The album is released officially on May 16th on the Corporate Records website. You might just learn something.