Friday, February 17, 2006


Orange Juice: Or The Inevitable Problems Of Music Writing

For many years, when people would ask my what kind of music I like (I'd probably say "jangly pop" or something like that) and would then ask who my favorite band is, I would say "probably Orange Juice." The next response would be "never heard of 'em" and that'd be it. It was probably assumed I was just trying to be cool by championing the totally obscure (who must not be that good if they never even put anything out in the US). Finally, to my eternal surprise, Edwyn Collins got a hit in the US with "A Girl Like You" and I had some sort of reference point to provide for the band. Of course, whatever its merits, the hit song had virtually no musical relation to the work of Collins' former band, so I still couldn't explain where I was coming from.

Fast forward to the new millennium and Franz Ferdinand is one of the most popular bands in the world. They seem to talk up the virtues of Orange Juice in nearly every interview and seem to suggest that F.F. wouldn't be the same without 'em. Their praise helps the band get a reissue on the Domino label. The Glasgow School comprises most of their prime Postcard Records era material: their singles and initially unreleased first album that comprised The Heather's On Fire and Ostrich Churchyard respectively. I'm not really sure how the influence of OJ manifests itself in FF's music; in many ways the two seem diametrically opposed. FF is filled with swagger and attitude while OJ is self-effacing and courageously UN-macho. FF sounds more like the Fire Engines to me, who coincidentally also have a new collection on Domino, called Codex Teenage Premonition.

Anyway, I'm certainly glad that Orange Juice is getting the credit they deserve and that their most essential material is mostly back in print. They have a feature in Resonance magazine and are even mentioned on the cover. So what's the problem? Maybe I'm too cynical but before I opened the magazine, I thought to myself that there would be factual problems with the article. The article mentions that unlike most bands in Glasgow, OJ wasn't from an art school background. If I remember correctly, Edwyn did attend art school for a time I think, but I suppose that's minor. Most of the bands in town would not seem to be from art school backgrounds at all. It would seem that there was a very tough ROCK sort of mentality in Glasgow at the time, despite the way it might now seem from the surviving recorded output 25 years later. It would appear to me that the Postcard label flew square in the face of this mentality and was the artsier side of the scene. Their motto was "Fuck dance let's art!" after all! OJ had the guts to repeat "I'll never be man enough for you" and if I recall properly, to open for the Buzzcocks playing a pink drum set! OK that's not that big a quibble...

As one reads on, it is mentioned that the Rip It Up LP gave OJ their only hit, "I Can't Help Myself." This isn't accurate. Their biggest hit (and the only that hit the top ten) was the title track from the LP. "I Can't Help Myself" was the second hit and wasn't as big as the first. Am I being too trainspotter-y here? Shouldn't the people who write articles do just enough fact checking to get this right? Thirdly, the article describes the new cd as the first thing the band has had out in the US in years. Isn't it relevant that they had NEVER before had anything out in this country?...that they were finally getting a proper release for the first time 25 years after they started and 20 after they broke up? That seems like a pretty big deal to me.

So maybe I'm just a music dork. I have a theory though, that any time one knows a lot about any band (or perhaps any subject of any kind), one will find that the people in the press writing about said band, will inevitably get things wrong. Perhaps that shouldn't be such a problem to me but it just makes me wonder if nearly all articles are inaccurate; we may just not notice usually because we assume that people know what they're writing about. Maybe it should be enough for us just to have something we care about getting a little bit of press for a change. Yet I can't help but feel that to be a bit of a copout. Maybe people should take their duties are writers a bit more seriously perhaps. Nonetheless, I'm glad folks are writing about Orange Juice.

Nearly all articles are inaccurate. Journalists often mention that Joy Division were originally known as the Stiff Kittens, when they most definitely were not. Is this equally true when reading about a famous author in the New Yorker? I can't say.
Hi lostsocks person.

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Hearing the FF reviving OJ reminds me of Nirvana reviving the Vaselines, the melvins, and pixies. It's interesting how people love the influences of their favorite bands. I would like to make a family tree of influences, it would be amazing.
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I started up a new indie music blog and I'm looking for someone to help keep it maintained.

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