Ranked: Orange Juice
Apr 17, 2013
Welcome to Ranked, our series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Austin Trunick ranks Orange Juice.
Aside from launching Edwyn Collins' career, Glasgow's Orange Juice left behind a lovelorn and defiantly catchy discography that largely went under-heard until recent years. As good as their albums were, they had a habit of falling out of print for long stretches of time.
Luckily, Domino Records is reissuing the band's four studio releases on vinyl in the U.S. for Record Store Day. Hopefully your local shop will institute some semblance of law and order on April 20th, but if not, which Orange Juice album should you dive for first in the tangle of dirty, grabbing hands? Feel free to use our rankings as your guide.
Here are Orange Juice's major releases, ranked from most essential to least.
Words by Austin Trunick
Rip It Up
The watery synthesizer, funky drums, jangly guitar, and singer Edwyn Collins’ soulful vocals come together just perfectly for “Rip It Up,” Orange Juice’s lone megahit and longest-lasting legacy. The whole disc that arrived with it was superb. Aided by new drummer Zeke Manyika and guitarist Malcolm Ross (formerly of Josef K, later of Aztec Camera), it’s a bit more varied and rocking than the band’s debut and early singles, though a few tracks—particularly “Mud In Your Eye” and “Flesh Of My Flesh”—are as swooning as anything they’d done before. Aside from the sublime pop of the title track, the groovy, rhythmic “Breakfast Time” and the irresistibly upbeat “I Can’t Help Myself” are standouts. Rip It Up is an easy pick for Orange Juice’s most essential studio album.
You Can't Hide Your Love Forever
Following a string of catchy (and acclaimed) singles, the band jumped ship from the Postcard label to the bigger Polydor to put out their proper debut album. Characterized by gentler arrangements and Collins’ lovesick vocals, Orange Juice took post-punk into a more old-fashioned-sounding pop realm. “L.O.V.E. Love” gives the best idea of what this first record is all about, with its laid-back rhythms and Collins’ romantic crooning, but faster-tempo cuts such as “Falling and Laughing” and the jittery “Tender Object” are closer to what the band would pull off on their sophomore masterstroke. The horn-punctuated “Satellite City” is the record’s funkiest cut. It’s one of the band’s most fully-formed releases, but listeners who’d dismiss it as lacking weight wouldn’t be totally without an argument.
With only six tracks and running at just 20 minutes, Texas Fever may qualify more as an EP, but because this band’s body of work was so small, we’re including it here. This ‘mini-album’ was better than the album it led into, but not significantly so. By the time Orange Juice entered the studio to record Texas Fever, the cards were already on the table for the rapidly-disintegrating lineup. By the time their creative differences proved insurmountable, the band had only wrapped a handful of tracks, which explains the disc’s short runtime. It’s possible this tension is what marred their results: the tracks just don’t come together all that well. The uptempo “The Day I Went Down to Texas” is the disc’s high point.
The Orange Juice
Orange Juice’s swan song is a pretty glum go -of -it, for the most part. Guitarist Malcolm Ross and bassist David McClymont had split, and Polydor had dropped the band in the months since Texas Fever. From the effort he puts in, it’s clear Collins hasn’t yet checked out of Orange Juice and started looking ahead to a solo career, but the singer / songwriter’s ambitious effort just wasn’t enough to carry the record on its own. Horns and dancing keys return to keep “Lean Period” from dragging, and the wonky “What Presence?!” rocks a bit, but The Orange Juice lacks moments that rival the band’s earlier material. Orange Juice newcomers will probably be set once they pick up the band’s first two releases, while bigger fans of the band should be happy to have the tougher-to-find The Orange Juice and Texas Fever available on vinyl for the first time in a long while.
The Glasgow School
This latter-era release collects the band’s first four pre-album singles, as well as tracks from the first, unreleased debut record and early b-sides. For what it’s worth, this compilation disc is better than the band’s last two studio releases. Much of the material here had been collected on other compilations throughout the years, but The Glasgow School showcases the best of that material and is easiest to find these days. However, if you want the most complete Orange Juice experience, try to seek out the 2010 box set Coals To Newcastle from Domino Records, which contains pretty much all of the material you could possibly want spread across seven discs. It’s out-of-print right now and could set you back at least $70, but that’s less than you’d pay to collect all their material separately.