Before they called it quits in 2005, the Delgados eased up on the swirling orchestral-rock arrangements they inherited from the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, whose Dave Fridmann produced both 2000's The Great Eastern and 2002's Hate. The Scottish quartet's relatively stripped-down swan song, Universal Audio, suggests they were concerned Fridmann's strings 'n' things were threatening to overwhelm their modest indie-pop songwriting. This solo debut by Emma Pollock, one of the Delgados' two singer-guitarists, isn't quite the plain-Jane affair you'd therefore expect. "New Land" opens with a bombastic circus-organ intro, and the pounding pianos in "Adrenaline" illustrate what the Delgados picked up by covering ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" for a 2003 Peel Session. Still, despite the somewhat misleading title, Watch the Fireworks is a scrappier and smaller-scale production than any Delgados record (Universal Audio included). In pretty folk-pop lullabies "Limbs" and "This Rope's Getting Tighter," Pollock keeps the focus on her acoustic guitar and sexy-sandpaper vocals, while "Acid Test" throbs with the lean, all-ages energy of great mid-'90s UK acts like Bis and Huggy Bear. Although the tunes tend toward the forgettable, and definitely lack the sweet-and-sour male-female chemistry Pollock and Alun Woodward built the Delgados' music around, she's got enough charm to keep you from tuning out for too long.
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