Today is a momentous day. Finally, almost thirty years after they originally formed as the Nu-Sonics and more than twenty years after they broke up for good, Orange Juice finally scores a U.S. release. The band went through several permutations over more than a dozen singles and three-and-a-half albums. Through it all, Edwyn Collins was the stalwart, the one constant through the band's entire history; he was front man, primary writer, and lead singer.
In many ways, Orange Juice was the personification of early '80s indie. As the name of this CD suggests, they were from Glasgow, Scotland (I know, I shouldn't have to specify that, but when I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I told someone I was listening to a new band from Glasgow, and they asked, "Glasgow, Kentucky?"), which at that time wasn't even on the fringes of the London industry, so they had to set up their own local scene. That became Postcard Records (The Sound of Young Scotland), and Orange Juice recorded the first Postcard single, "Falling and Laughing." As it was all just beginning, there wasn't much money for record pressing, so less than a thousand were made (consequently, on the rare occasions it shows up on eBay, the bidding rises into the three figures). It was enough to catch the ear of the London music press, though, so the group got the support necessary to push forward. The band released three more singles (with larger pressings) and recorded an album's worth of demos. However, as the personification of early '80s indie, Orange Juice had no choice but to turn their backs on Postcard and sign to a major. They signed to Polydor and recorded their first album, You Can't Hide Your Love Forever,
one of the all-time great pop artifacts. Even at the time, Steve Sutherland wrote in Melody Maker
that it was "possibly the greatest record ever made," and it has only improved with age. But the original lineup broke up shortly after that album, and Orange Juice was never the same. Through two more albums and one mini-album, the group continued to be very good, but they never recaptured the exuberance, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre of the early material.
That's why it's lucky that The Glasgow School
compiles all the Postcard material--four singles and B-sides and the unreleased-at-the-time album Ostrich Churchyard.
In a sticker on the front of the CD, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand says:
Whenever I listen to [this music], I feel overwhelmed with idealistic optimism. I'm still thrilled by the adventurousness of the songwriting. . . . I still feel yes, anything IS possible.
He's right. When I opened the package and put the CD on, my eyes started to well up at the first strains of "Falling and Laughing." I'm not ashamed of saying, I was close to tears. And understand--I've already got most of this stuff. Except for a couple of bonuses at the end, I wasn't listening to anything I couldn't have played over the weekend or even as I was driving to the CD store this afternoon. But that just speaks to the power of the material. No matter how familiar it might become, it remains magnificent.
Do yourself a favor and pick up this CD. Not only is the music amazing, but it comes in a very handsome package. Extensive liner notes are provided by original Orange Juice drummer Steven Daly, who left the group and went on to a successful career as a journalist, working for Vanity Fair,
among other outlets. Once you put it on, you'll hear things that sound oddly familiar if you follow today's indie music. The aforementioned Franz could easily drop "Breakfast Time" into the middle of their set without changing gears. And I think Interpol already covers "Simply Thrilled Honey," they just call it something else. (Don't forget to add a comment about where you
hear Orange Juice's influence.) But don't just take my word for it. Look at what The Guardian
has to say, or Glasgow's Sunday Herald
. Pitchfork gives it a 9.3
. A news release
at the helpful Domino USA site offers links to images of reviews from Magnet
, and Rolling Stone.
But it's not all glowing. Time Out London
apparently called it mostly "unlistenable."
On a less fortunate note, Edwyn Collins, who you may otherwise know from his 1995 hit "A Girl Like You," suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on February 20 of this year. He's through the worst part and is improving at a reasonable pace (though not as quickly as he'd like). Grace Maxwell, Edwyn's wife, has been extremely good about sharing updates on his progress at Edywn's bulletin board
. The most recent is from a couple of weeks ago, and at that point, Grace said that the hospital intended to release Edwyn to continue his recovery at home some time next week. I'm sure she'll post again when Edwyn gets home, if not before.