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Orange Juice - The Glasgow School

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Artist: Orange Juice

Album: The Glasgow School

Label: Domino

Review date: Oct. 15, 2005

Everyone’s wise to Orange Juice’s game now, either directly (through this new The Glasgow School compilation) or indirectly (through their influence on Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian, etc.) Their history has been documented; their music contextualized within punk, post-punk, new pop and Scot rock; the rise of the Postcard label, formed for Orange Juice by the irascible Alan Horne, paralleled both the DIY intervention of post-punk and the clamor for charts endemic to the entryist discourse of early-'80s English press. Orange Juice is the birthplace of Edwyn Collins the pop star (even if that reality only eventuated twice, with 1983’s “Rip It Up,” and Edwyn’s late 1990s solo hit “A Girl Like You”). And just as importantly, Orange Juice’s music is both the birth and death of the indie ‘sound’ and ideal. (Not bad for the four lanky Scots who made up the group at this juncture – Collins on guitar and vocals, Steven Daly on drums, James Kirk on guitar and David McClymont on bass.)

The birth and death of indie? The group’s sound, crossing the amphetamine strum of the Velvet Underground with Stax, Northern Soul, and the ever-changing same of Chic’s disco production line, birthed jangle-pop and C86, but 95 percent of the twee groups left out rhythm, sex and sarcasm, streamlining Orange Juice’s complex hybrid of seemingly incompatible elements into a bland mush of asexual droning. For every group that got it right (The Pastels, Beat Happening), hundreds got it completely wrong… Though we don’t have to name names - you shouldn’t have to be petty to make a point. Nevertheless, as with other groups from the era who inspired such reverence – think of the droves of dismal, drab post-Joy Division records released on Factory throughout the 1980s – mute adoration was insufficient. Orange Juice were motivators.

Indeed, Orange Juice’s sole ‘fault’ was their unremitting perfection. I haven’t heard too many pop singles that are as breathless as the 7” format demands, but “Blueboy” still sounds as though it's riding on natural amphetamines, a joyous explosion that completely emancipated Scottish pop music. Collins' voice sounds giddy here, and his wavering tuning captures the thrill of pop at its most untethered. The first nine tracks on The Glasgow School collect together Orange Juice’s first four singles; the only falter being the angular, messy “Breakfast Time” (and even that song comes with one of the most beautiful, morning-rise spindly guitar-melody introductions of all-time).

The core of this compilation, though, is the Ostrich Churchyard collection: Orange Juice’s first pass at recording a debut album, the group shelved the set after signing with Polydor and handing in You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever as their debut instead. More’s the pity: …Forever is a lovely record, but Ostrich Churchyard sounds better; warmer, more playful, full of moments of ridiculous inspiration. Collins is at his most winning when he starts to mock-croon; Orange Juice’s first ballad, “(To Put It In A) Nutshell,” is their loveliest, a web of guitars spinning lines around Collins’ most affecting (and perhaps his least arch) vocal. “Consolation Prize”’s tableau of coy coquetry and willful emasculation is hilarious and moving. “Intuition Told Me” starts in Tin Pan Alley mode; indeed, one of the most fascinating things about Orange Juice’s music is its hear-profligate genre plundering. The myopia of so much indie is redundant next to Orange Juice’s recombinant sound; these Scots are magpie aesthetes.

The Glasgow School is not comprehensive. The group’s debut release, Felicity, does not appear in any form, and though the original flexi-disc recording of it might be a bit shabby, there is a glorious Peel Session version of the song that leaked out on the Heather’s on Fire compilation from the mid-'90s. Indeed, all of Orange Juice’s Peel Sessions should be made available, and The Glasgow School misses that golden opportunity, only including the throwaway “Blokes on 45” – the group’s own take on the Stars on 45 phenomenon, it’s fun but inconsequential. Ultimately, though, there is no point in complaining: The Glasgow School is that rare beast, perfect pop in its most illuminated form.

By Jon Dale

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