Saturday, August 02, 2008

Orlando "Passive Soul" (1997)

1. Introduction
2. Furthest Point Away
3. Just For A Second
4. Natures Hated
5. On Dry Land
6. Contained
7. Afraid Again
8. Happily Unhappy
9. Don't Sleep Alone
10. Save Yourself
11. Three Letters
12. Here (So Find Me)/ Hero

This album clearly has lapsed into some sort of obscurity - I couldn't find a decent shot of the cover on Google's Image search. Time to get the digital camera out again...

As was the case with InAura, this album came out looooooong after the Romo bubble had burst. This was released in the summer of 1997, by which time I'd almost completely forgotten about Orlando. They had released a single, "The Magic EP" in 1996 which was slagged off quite mercilessly in Select Magazine by guest reviewers The Future Sound of London. I still haven't forgiven FSOL for that. Being the loyal chap that I am, I bought this LP as soon as it appeared, and privately hoped that its tardy appearance on the Blanco Y Negro label was a sign that Orlando had outlived Romo and could do well despite their connection to the much-ridiculed scene. Yeah, right...

Ok, this album is not brilliant, but it has its moments. As was the case with the Romo scene that spawned them, I wanted to like it more than I ever actually could like it. Like, the CD case carried a list of Orlando's inspirations and they were all stupendously laudable; Dexys "Let's Make This Precious", Shena Mackay, The Style Council, Shoot 'N' Surf Internet Cafe, Stanislavski, "God Is In The Details", My So-Called Life, The Supremes, The Night of May 1st 1997..." The sleeve art contained reproductions of the duo's school reports and photos by PSB zapper Eric Watson. The best track on the album was produced by Alan Tarney, the man behind brilliant singles by A-ha, Cliff Richard ("We Don't Talk Anymore", "Carrie"), Pulp ("Disco 2000") and even Barbara Dixon ("January"). So one senses that this could have been so much better, if it had had a bigger budget maybe, or if they had struck while the iron was hot.

A quick history lesson for those that don't know... Orlando were Tim Chipping and Dickon Edwards. For a brief time they were the kind of band who got mentioned in the lonely hearts/pen pal column in Select ("19 year old wallflower seeks like-minded types for gigs and drinks, into Manics, Pulp, Orlando, Kenickie..."), and they still seem to be held in fond regard by sentimental music fans on messageboards here and there. Since the end of Orlando, Tim has appeared as a cameo in "Shaun Of The Dead" and Dickon has written about pop culture on the website (don't look for it, it's not there anymore). But it is perhaps for "Passive Soul", that they are best remembered.

It starts off with a short excerpt from socialist anthem "The Red Flag", before hurtling into the stomping Northern sounding "Furthest Point Away". It's part Dexys and part Style Council but I must admit that I think now, as I did then, that it sounds a bit rushed and shoddy. It's with the Tarney-aided "Just For A Second" that my ears really prick up - the track is an absolute stormer. Some great lyrics too: "Deep down I fear I might actually be...unremarkable!" - they're clearly aiming for a Kevin Rowland-esque mixture of ambition and insecurity there. A great single and it's a bit of a tragedy that it wasn't a hit. As for the rest of the album...well the best bits sound like Orlando's attempts at recreating their heroes' best bits. The Style Council's "Changing of the Guard" on "On Dry Land", Culture Club-meet-The Associates on "Happily Unhappy", Jimmy Webb's work for Glen Campbell on "Don't Sleep Alone". It's all ok, but difficult to rave about. That said, it's a shame they didn't get a second crack at the whip. Worth a listen.