Get a taste of Orange Juice

Mike Morrone

I have returned from travels far and wide (Charlestown, Kansas City) with a vision of what could have been. In Kansas City, Missouri, I searched out a record store on foot, on an unwavering hunch. After some wide-eyed browsing, I asked the knowledgeable clerk if he had a wide array of music both old and new on either CD or vinyl. After some time I inquired if he had any Orange Juice, the Scottish inventors of twee pop music, (not the tasty drink for morning, noon and night.) He shook his head. Dejected, I noticed on the floor towards the back of the store five boxes of 80’s rock records, “half off.” In the back of the third box, I hit pay dirt, a copy of the import only “The Orange Juice (The Third Album)” for four dollars! When I showed the clerk my find, he emitted a groan tinged with surprise and envy.

While I cannot review that album, which was released over twenty-one years ago, I can talk about “The Glasgow School,” an unbelievable compilation of the band’s early singles and other choice cuts, released on Domino this year.

Orange Juice became in many ways the long-overlooked standard for the indie rock blueprint. The group, always led by the mercurial Edwyn Collins, was the flagship act of the DIY label Postcard Records, releasing several knock out singles. Before even getting to release their first album, they signed to the major label Polydor and experienced arguably the first indie backlash from “selling out.” The band, among other things, recorded novelty covers (Al Green’s “L.O.V.E. Love”), replaced members with musicians from other bands, essentially broke up twice and went out with a bang, announcing their immediate demise on stage at a benefit for miners barely five and a half years after their first performance. Collins went on to surprising world recognition a decade later for his single “A Girl Like You” and Orange Juice became barely more than a footnote in the long line of exceptional guitar pop from Scotland. Most importantly though, Orange Juice released some of the most introspective, tuneful, fun songs that not only sound like direct ancestors of fare like Franz Ferdinand, but influenced the Smiths, arguably the Holy Grail of Indie Rock.

“The Glasgow School” collects much of their early output, and it immediately begs the question as to why much of their material has been so long out of print. The songs are all gems, brimming with jangly guitars and truly brilliant, self-deprecating lyrics. Edwyn Collins’ voice, a bouncy baritone, complements the increasingly polished and playful instrumentals. All of the songs are without a doubt excellent – perfect for dancing and parties, strolling triumphantly through an unknown city at dusk, or bemoaning your own inadequacies and second guessing yourself in the direct aftermath of a harrowing personal experience. Just listen to the first track, “Falling and Laughing,” and you will be hooked. Chirping guitars twinkle around a propulsive bass drum beat and an articulate bass line. Collins croons at the start, “You must think me very naive/thinking that’s true,” And follows with his declaration of being alone, falling and laughing all the while.

Their identity is all their own, ranging from the esoteric bookends of “Moscow” and “Moscow Olympics” (basically two instrumentals, with the only lyrics being “Moscow!” and “Ow, Yip!”) to the Buzzcocks-esque romp “Lovesick.” Needless to say, the songs are charismatic all to themselves; the twenty-three track album is essential listening. It’s no wonder why Belle & Sebastian name-dropped them in their song “Legal Man.”

Sometimes it is just better to go back to get the real thing. If you don’t have a turntable or the ability to go to some random city such as Tucson looking for their first two albums, “The Glasgow School” is a wonderful intro to a band that, while no longer in existence, lives on in dozens of current bands that are adored today for one reason or another. While they don’t offer any vitamin C, Orange Juice should still be consumed regularly.