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Orange Juice

The Glasgow School
Yahoo Music (July 2005)

There's a touching sense of karma to the release of this album. Having made a small fortune from their typically prescient signing of Franz Ferdinand, a band who took the Orange Juice template of danceable arty indie pop and updated it for the post-Strokes generation, Domino have returned that pile of money directly to the source. With singer Edwyn Collins still recovering from a brain haemorrhage suffered earlier this year, an injection of extra cash to cover hospital bills couldn't have come at a better time.

It could be argued that any fan of any indie pop band from The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian right up to Franz should buy this record as a way of saying thank you to the group that started it all. For, make no mistake, when Orange Juice recorded the contents of this CD (the band's first four singles on Postcard and their aborted first album "Ostrich Churchyard", plus a jokey medley of their songs from a radio session) between 1980 and 1982, they were single-handedly inventing a genre and blazing a trail for every intelligent, literate indie band that's come since.

If your knowledge of Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins is restricted to the gloopy mainstream hit "Rip It Up" and every pub singer's favourite, "A Girl Like You", then you're in for a shock. Listening back to these peerless, astonishingly ambitious, bolt-from-the-blue mélanges of Motown's pop purity, Chic's infectious guitar jangles, and Collins' own supremely wry take on romantic songcraft and lyricism is still a revelation. Be it the euphoric rush of "Poor Old Soul", the proto-Marr shimmy of "Tender Object" or guitarist James Kirk's superlative left-handed dancefloor anthem "Wan Light", this is cultured, seductive guitar music at its very best.

For the aficionados, the songs that make-up the debut album that never was make for curious listening. Alongside the strangely loose-limbed version of "Falling And Laughing", these recordings feel half finished somehow, more like outtakes. "Falling And Laughing" in particular feels like it's going to disintegrate at any second, while bum notes and missed beats abound. But what was polished away to produce OJ's spectacular debut proper, "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever", was a casual sense of intimacy that makes this album something to cherish. OK, so the taut, startling ending of "In A Nutshell" is a stern producer's whipcrack away, but the lazy, Felt-inventing opening is a joy.

There are countless personal highlights. The close of "Poor Old Soul (Part Two)" where the band start chanting "No more rock'n'roll for you" like the only punks who have ever mattered - willfully camp art school boys who'd named themselves Orange Juice just to annoy the spikeytops - is exhilarating. The four-to-the-floor buzz of "Love Sick". The scope and ambition of "Simply Thrilled Honey", only three singles in and they're evolving fast. Mistakes and all, you really can't undervalue a second of this album. Thanks Domino for bringing it back to us. And get well soon Edwyn. We owe you the world.

Ian Watson
Music, film, comedy and travel journalist based in London

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