Friday, 18 September 2015

Oliver: Smashing Orange - Only Complete in You (28 December 1991)

So in the great battle of the early 90s, what side were you on?  Were you a Pumpkinhead or an Orangina?  Alas, there was only room for one band named after an act of violence against a piece of grocery, and ultimately it was Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins who took the spoils, while Rob Montejo and Smashing Orange were forced to trudge back to Wilmington, Delaware with the label, "America's best kept secret" ringing in their ears.

Leaving aside the problems of having nearly the same associative name as another, more successful band, it's worth noting that for a time, Smashing Orange enjoyed a higher level of professional respect, particularly in Britain where their records were seen as meatier, heavier, rockier shoe gazer tunes than pretty much any other British band of the time, outside of My Bloody Valentine.  Unlike Kevin Shields and co. the mixing on Smashing Orange records allowed you to hear every word that Montejo sang, as well as doing a pretty poor separation job between the drums, which are pushed up in the mix, and the guitars which form a rather mushy background.  However, what made this track stand out for me was the use of what sounds like an organ, but could be another processed guitar part.  It drives the song in dementedly determined fashion like Willy Wonka's paddle-steamer.  I just wish it could be presented here as it sounded on the radio.
  Shoegaze records are made to be heard through a radio and on a mix-tape.  One reason I've always made mixtapes from the radio  is because of the enveloping aural hug it gives to the listener; that teasing of what Thurston Moore in his 2004 curated book, Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture calls the ear-heart, that part of your brain that receives the analogue stimulus that a tape can provide.  I've had plenty of those resuscitations down the years, both from Peel and his successors.  Tracks which sound fine when played on a CD, but which take on an extra layer of frisson when heard on a tape, recorded from the radio.  I could cite examples like the keyboards on All Change of Heart by Lianne Hall and Pico, the opening guitar attack of Forget It by Corrigan or Trouble by The Madeleines, the trumpet part on a live recording of the Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly or the reverb vocal on Need U by Oceaan. They've all tickled my ear-heart and ended up on a tape.  Here, it's that organ effect that shoots the arrow straight to my ear-heart.

There's reason to believe that all shoegaze tracks are essentially about drugs, and the ones here about loving the mirror more than life itself are Exhibit A as far as I'm concerned.

Video courtesy of sadmindSCM.

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