Wednesday, November 10, 2010

pop*eye...The Orchids - The Lost Star (2010)


The Orchids
The Lost Star (2010)

When the legendary indie pop group the Orchids re-formed in the mid-2000s, the first album they made (2007’s Good to Be a Stranger) was standard-issue guitar pop that did nothing to tarnish their legend, but also didn’t add much to it, either. For the follow-up, 2010’s The Lost Star, the band made the ace decision to call up Ian Carmichael, the producer they'd worked with closely to create classic albums and singles back in the '90s. Back then, Carmichael brought a willingness to experiment with sound and arrangements that opened up the band’s sound and made them true innovators (even if barely anyone outside the insular world of indie pop noticed). While it would be wrong to expect The Lost Star to be as interesting or satisfying as Unholy Soul, for example, you’d be dead right if you hoped it would be an improvement on Good to Be a Stranger. The songs are stronger, the production is weird and unpredictable, and James Hackett’s voice (always the main draw of the band) sounds better than it did on Stranger. He sounds more confident and invested in the emotions behind the songs; definitely much more sure of himself. In retrospect, the reunion album almost seems like a formality that had to be taken care of in order for the band to get back to making classic records. Not classic in the way the old ones were, but classic in the sense that it sounds perfectly right the first time you listen. As soon as a track like "The Okay Song" (which features the lovely backing vocals of longtime contributor Pauline Hynds) comes on, you’re transported back to a time when the OrchidsThe Lost Star, thanks to Hackett’s singing, Carmichael’s production, and the intensity and skill the band add to the proceedings. The album's not perfect by any means, and that’s fine because even at their peak, the band threw in the occasional clunker, but The Lost Star compares favorably to the band’s output when they were at their best. What more can you hope for from any band 20 years plus years after they began?


When The Orchids vary their musical game on Come Lay Here On My Bed it is plain to hear that the group is much more than a cult addition to the jangly legacy of Scottish pop. Strings and other interesting things make this a pop moment to savour, a feat casually repeated on God Of Special Things and the muted jazzy keyboard intro to The Girl And The Soldier. James Hackett's vocal is that of a lounge lizard with bite. Doot Doot is a tidy and spacious piece of guitar pop, and the closing Back To Your House a gentle stripped-down subversion of the same genre.


All about legendary
The Orchids

JAMES HACKETT (vocals, acoustic guitar)
KEITH SHARP (guitar)
JOHN SCALLY (lead guitar)


The enigmatic five piece band formed in Glasgow have released some of the finest pop songs of their generation since humble beginnings in Penilee, a suburb of the city, where the three founder members grew up and started the band in 1986. Their first six singles and three albums were met with widespread critical acclaim, much of this from out-with the UK. They graduated from the gentle lo-fi craft of their first album, Lyceum, in 1989 (“A minor classic – don’t let is pass you by” said NME) through to the ground breaking and progressive sounds of their third, aptly titled, Striving For The Lazy Perfection (“lithe, evocative and memorable music” – Melody Maker) in 1994 with “sixth member” Ian Carmichael of One Dove at the studio controls.

In the intervening years they released Unholy Soul in 1991 (“Sarah Records answer to the Beach Boys Pet Sounds”) and some truly original singles & EPs that, in keeping with a stance sometimes perceived as awkward and single minded, were always kept apart from album projects. The ethos was always more about value for money for their fans than genuine stubbornness, however. The singles included what many believe to be the high point of their career to date, Something For The Longing as well as final single Thaumaturgy in 1993.

Reformed in 2004 after a break of Paddy McAloon proportions they are now ready to take another swipe at the tedious world of the music business with an album that takes them back to their musical roots. Recorded at Riverside Studios, home to other better known homegrown acts such as Travis, Teenage Fanclub and Trash Can Sinatras, their new record Good To Be A Stranger is a fabulous collection of new songs that will feed the hungry appetite of the fan base that has grown over the intervening years. Ahead of their time in the early 90’s, it is only now that many have realised how fascinating and mature those earlier releases were.

GOOD TO BE A STRANGER is released on Madrid based label Siesta on 5th February 2007 and the band will be heading out to play live gigs for the first time in twelve years to promote the new release – nothing like keeping your fans waiting! Offers of gigs in the UK, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Singapore and the USA illustrate how the World Wide Web has allowed their global reputation to grow. Later in 2007, a cover of The Go Betweens’ song Magic In Here will also appear on a Grant McLennan tribute album, Love Goes On, released on USA’s Rare Victory Records. You can also currently hear one of the new songs Down To The Ocean on Siesta Records compilation Erre Que Erre.

“The best Scottish pop band since Orange Juice” – Melody Maker

“A blissful mix of the best Scottish bands of the last few years” – NME”

“Eclectic. Every single song is a gem” – Exclaim!

“Luxuriant textures, immaculate pop fizz with enviable purpose” – MM

“Songs of emotional wit and sparkling indie pop” – All Music Guide

“Languid and alluring” – Tangents

“The tension between wanting to wig out and grow more evanescent is evident” – Uncut

“They brought together all the best parts of the 80′s Scottish music scene, while adding something that’s hard to pin down, yet made them so very special” ExclAIM!


Cult of Scottish pop!

the portastylistic

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