Barry of Championship Vinyl could have expanded upon his recommendations to customers in the movie High Fidelity, me speaking as a retail manager, sometimes I can’t help it. He could have, if they stocked the albums, recommended Orange Juice to the customer also buying the Jesus & Mary Chain. In fact, many of the bands simply mentioned in the book and the film might not have existed had it not been for Orange Juice. It’s a terrible name to be sure, but their music is so good that it hardly seems to matter. Besides, they adopted the name to rebel against the punk movement that had just started springing up everywhere. It was the late seventies, and one of the most influential bands in British history was looking to buck the punk trend and start a style all their own. They were Orange Juice, and The Glasgow School is the story of their first year.
The Glasgow School collects the first four Postcard singles including B-Sides, the song collection Ostrich Churchyard in its entirety (which was initially a compilation of non-album tracks), and one DJ medley mix of singles called “Blokes on 45,” much like the Beatles medley “Stars on 45.” The most famous member of Orange Juice is Edwyn Collins, more known now for the songs “A Girl Like You,” featured in both Empire Records and the second Charlie’s Angels film, and “The Magic Piper (of Love)” which was featured in the original Austin Powers. I owned both Gorgeous George and I’m Not Following You, two Collins solo albums, but I had not had the pleasure of hearing Orange Juice, mostly because the band’s catalogue has been out of print in the states for years. Now, thanks to the bands they heavily influenced, some of us get to be introduced while the lucky few are reintroduced to the Scottish band that launched a thousand Scottish bands, Orange Juice.
The band was the first on indie label (before it was cool) Postcard Records. They were later joined by other nu-pop pioneers Josef K and Aztec Camera. But it was O.J. that set the scene for years to come, paving the way for Belle & Sebastian, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, and most recently, coming closest to the sound of Orange Juice, Franz Ferdinand. What struck me most when listening to The Glasgow School was that the B-Sides were sometimes even better than the A-Sides! “Moscow” and “Love Sick” are two incredible songs that were relegated to the flip side. Because of their unpolished sound, they might become more popular today than when they were still making music. Lo-fi was good for punk, but it wasn’t as accepted with pop back then.
Listening to particular tracks from Orange Juice’s pre-major label days, one can hear leaping points to Crocodiles, If You’re Feeling Sinister, and Psycho Candy. “Falling and Laughing” is a sunny pop record with a dark side. The Scottish guitar strumming, later adopted by Roddy Frame and Haircut 100, conveys a sense of whimsy, while the bass teeters on the brink of jolly and desperate, all the while, Edwyn Collins’ voice, especially when singing the lines “falling and laughing” at the end, sounds like the spawn of Ian McCulloch and Lou Reed. “Moscow,” although named after a city in Russia, should be the anthem for Scottish rock. This instrumental has the catchiest, and apparently stolen, guitar riff on the album. “Blue Boy” and “Love Sick” continue the avant-garde vocals inspired by the Velvet Underground.
With the deluge of British bands out there aping Gang of Four, hearing one of the originators of a particular pop sound is quite refreshing. The album does not sound dated at all, which is amazing considering it’s 25 years old! How Orange Juice didn’t get Franz Ferdinand big is beyond me, unless it’s as simple as being a quarter of a century before their time. As I write this, Edwyn Collins is recovering not only from surgery after two brain hemorrhages, but also is showing a resistance to antibiotics, leaving him in rehabilitation much longer than he expected. Get well, Edwyn and thanks for the O.J.!
Echo & the Bunnymen- Crocodiles
Aztec Camera- High Land, Hard Rain
Josef K- The Only Fun in Town