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Noble as it is for the Delgados to avoid ostentatious rock gestures, it sometimes gets in the way of their songs. Singer-guitarists Emma Pollock (compact, intense, tuneful) and Alun Woodward (tall, scattered, reedy) struck sparks when they flexed their stage presence and let their voices clash, but they mostly kept to their own sides and their own songs. "Pull the Wires From the Wall" (No. 1 on John Peel's Festive 50 last year!) could be Pollock's big ballad if it were allowed to: its melody curls around fragrantly, and the band holds back to let her dry, sturdy voice ring. Just when it's starting to promise a dramatic climax, though, it simply halts. The biggest trap of overfamiliarity the Delgados face is the one they stumble straight into. Their precise arrangements reward close attention on record; played note-for-note live, they take the edge off songs that could be more obvious, but also more dramatic. —Douglas Wolk


Crossing Atlantic It may lack the flash of feuds like Puff Daddy vs. Steve Stoute or Marilyn Manson against . . . well, just about everyone, but the internecine squabble between Atlantic Records and Entertainment Weekly looks to have more far-reaching repercussions.

For several weeks, the media Goliaths— both of which fall under the Time-Warner corporate umbrella— have been waging a war that has seen the label cut off all relations with EW. Allegedly at the direction of CEO Val Azzoli, Atlantic has been refusing to grant interviews or provide promotional CDs, and even declined to verify information for fact-checkers.

Entertainment Weekly insiders insist an unflattering profile of Atlantic cash cow Jewel that depicted her as a self-absorbed prima donna precipitated the trouble. But a source close to the label says, "That was just the straw that broke the camel's back," and cites a litany of acts (including Brandy and Sugar Ray) that Atlantic feels were treated unscrupulously by EW.

"They're basically using the names of these artists to sell magazines and then simply fucking them," says the source. "Atlantic isn't asking for any sort of favorable treatment, just a fair shake for the artists— something we get from other publications." Several Atlantic employees grant that the label has tried to throw its weight around in the past, strongly "suggesting" that certain writers not be used on stories, but none remembers an effort as concentrated as the current one. "Nothing has been written in black and white, but we've all been told exactly what can and can't be done," says one.

At the EW offices, a "what, me worry?" attitude prevails. Senior editor John McAlley, who declines to discuss the spat, simply insists that he and his fellow editors "stand by the Jewel story as it was written." That story, which appeared several weeks after Rolling Stone's soft-porn lionizing of the Alaskan yodeler, was the last major feature on an Atlantic artist to appear in the mag's pages.

According to a nonaligned Time-Warner observer, an uneasy peace accord is likely. "When EW slams a Warner Bros. film," he says, "they go ballistic on the West Coast, thinking that the studio will lose millions, but it blows over before long. If they know what's good for them, these people will do the same." —David Sprague

Taking a Peep

You probably don't associate portable toilets with positive sensory stimulation, but that shouldn't stop you from spelunking through an interactive multimedia exhibit that opened last weekend at Long Island City's P.S. 1. The show (credited to Low Flame, a partnership between Adria Petty, Ana Gabriel, and Thin Lizard Dawn's Howie Statland), contains a maze of Mylar-lined porto-potties, outfitted with peepshow-style video projections that trawl the psychosexual subconscious of a blue-collar everyman. Proud papas Peter Gabriel (with camcorder in tow) and Tom Petty hung in the back room, where Statland and DJ Stress provided live accompaniment to the installation's film centerpiece. Both found time to peep at the porn reels— presumably out of parental duty. —D.S.

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