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SURF'S UP, BALTIMORE


one that could possibly bring back the smell of sand and the taste of In-n-Out burgers when its respun after the summer's rush has moved out with the tide


one that could possibly bring back the smell of sand and the taste of In-n-Out burgers when its respun after the summer's rush has moved out with the tide

originally published: May, 2005

SURF'S UP, BALTIMORE

The Oranges Band
The World and Everything In it
(Lookout)

My sorta bandmate (he's definitely a mate, its just that we only sorta have a band) has the most unpredictable yet reliable taste in music. Usually he is dialed into some truly rackety shit on some dodgy half-label, but then he is also a devout and unabashed Neil Young fan, and  not just the cool stretches of Shakey's shaky catalog, but he likes the "bad" albums too, plays bass in a zydeco band and on more than one occasion has answered his door with some truly cheesy but ultimately rewarding New Orleans R&B on the turntable. So when his ears poke up when talking about a band, I always take note, and the last one was Roads to Space Travel, a defunct Baltimore Gang of Four (Go4 is the new Velvet Underground in the style-to-be-ineptly-compared-to category of record reviewing) meets Polvo unit headed by the wry Roman Kubler (how do indie rock guys get cool names like that? are they pseudonyms? is his name relay a normal awkward name like John Stitzmeier or something?)  and come to find that upon their demise, they transmogrified into the hip little combo The Oranges Band, a group I only knew from seeing their bumper stickers on every sticker-befouled shitty car in town.  (I also just found out he is also the touring bassist for Spoon, who I am seeing tonight on a rare outing from the couch, so it looks like the planets are lining up for this review to happen.)

The Oranges Band is a decidedly more poppy outfit than the previous extraterrestrial  unit, but this is supplanted with a literate and jaunty song delivery found in the likes of the Smiths or maybe closer, Kitchens of Distinction, with a cool summer pop post punk kick. The summerness of it further underscored by the recurring theme of surfing, or at least the riding of waves, be they gamma or Pacific in nature, in the song titles. Our heroes make a soft landing on the beach with the near-instrumental chant of "Believe" before getting their boards out and having relaxing turn on the waves with the nostalgia infused "Ride the Wild Wave" and surfing down memory half-pipe with the sweet "Open Air" 

Andy was nineteen
Lucky flush, he looked 23
Said that we could do anything and we did it all
We lived downtown
It was pretty punk for ids to live downtown
Pretty punk for us to get kicked out
but we didn't care, we stared into the open air

The keyboard and quietly driving guitar that forms the musical backbone is the perfect medium for these what-i-did-on-summer-vacation odes to youth. Its lite fare, but it should be. 

"White Ride" and "Ride the Nuclear Wave" gradually pick up the pace with the keys grinding into the sand, bringing us to the centerpiece of the album, the slinky funky space groove of  the title track. Here the vocal harmonies and keyboards are given more space at the front of the recording, highlighting the textural complexity that separates this band from other baskers in the summer idyll. "The Mountain" stars us back toward out beach towels with liberal borrowings form the Ventures at the beginning, but the swirl of the Oranges peculiar pop get us lost in a daydream on the way. "Drug City" is clever little ode to summer inhebriatedness, allowing the groove of the title track to re-emerge again.

"Atmosphere" is the best actual surf music track on the thing with Dick Dale chords and that snare/hi-hat pulse, reminding me of the earlier days of Man or Astroman and other great space and surf infected acts. The album closes with the odd somewhat cloying but catchy vibrochant of "Evil's Where You Want it to Be" which has enough interesting little sections in it to finally highlight the various facets of this band. I would've been happy if "Atmosphere" had taken me out past the breakers and this had appeared somewhere inside the album, but that is a minor quibble. its still what we call a "great little record"  not one that is going to have legendary status and be revered for years to come by each wave of all-knowing hip kids to wash ashore, but one that could possibly bring back the smell of sand and the taste of In-n-Out burgers when its respun after the summer's rush has moved out with the tide.

 

Alex V. Cook

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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