review archive

Smashing Orange – 1991 (Elephant Stone Records)

The cover photo of ‘1991’ shows Smashing Orange indulging in a spot of full on shoe-gazing live! at the Camden Falcon. This sort of thing was a popular activity in the early nineties. I know because I lived (more or less) at the Falcon at that time. Never saw the Smashies though, I was probably down the Underworld or
up the Powerhaus or somewhere that night.


Anyway, what we have here is a twelve track retrospective of a band that probably made a lot more sense in 1991’s London (swilling cider with Mikki from Lush, arm-wrestling with that tosser from Revolver, stumbling over Damon Albarn’s inert frame on the dance-floor at Syndrome) than they did in their native Delaware. This would explain why these tracks were only ever released in the UK, but fret not Yanks! thanks to Elephant Stone Records tireless campaign to unearth all things slightlydelic you can now fill yer boots with home-grown blissed out, fuzzed up, ennui laced pop, albeit fourteen years late.

Album opener is olde dancefloor (or should that be ‘sway ethereally floor’) fave ‘My Deranged Heart’ which ticks all the right gazey boxes; shimmering tambourine? yep; distant, lackadaisical vocals? yep; pealing, circling chords played through a selection of reverbtastic effects? ho yes. At certain points the guitar starts sounding like a duck trapped in a Hoover as the old wah/fuzz pedals get some heavy-duty use. Ride’s bumper book of lyrical emptiness is rifled for lines like, ‘Summer dreams have died’. Basically if you’ve ever enjoyed swishing your fringe and plucking at your over-stretched jumper to the likes of Chapterhouse, Swervedriver, Ride et al then here’s another one for your collection.

Of course all those bands were desperate to be My Bloody Valentine, but all lacked the crazed genius of Kevin Shields and thus all fell pitifully short of MBV’s epic transports of ecstasy. This didn’t stop Smashing Orange from trying, mind, as can be noted in the full-on MBV homage of ‘Only Complete In You’ with its queasily phasing guitar and the sound of 1000 radios broadcasting from 1967 snatched out of the ether. It’s kind of like the MBV you can take home to mother. As is ‘Just Before I Come (Believe Me)‘ complete with ‘Isn’t Anything’ style ooer! bracketed title and er, entire sound. ‘Sidewinder’ does the Kev ‘n’ Bilinda his ‘n’ hers duet thing between Smashing main man Rob Montejo and his kid sister Sara. The spindly-limbed boy/girl dynamic helps kick these songs a notch higher up the interesting-ometer, like ‘Any Further, It’s All Over’ which rattles and squeals frantically behind brother and sister sweetly duetting.

Then there’s the sublimely spaced ‘Strange Young Girls’ with poor wee Sara lisping ‘Please kill me’ through an opiated haze. No wonder she wasn’t allowed out of the States when this band of sister-tormenting reprobates hit the UK. ‘Felt Like Nothing’ introduces a snappy slice of garagey crunch to proceedings several millennia before the Dandy Warhols thought to try it; and ‘Sugar’ is fizz pop perfect, guaranteed to keep you up there swinging that fringe straight after Rides’ ‘Chelsea Girls’ has had you shuffling round gleefully. Dipping, swooning, gliding, buzzing, this is the crystallised sound of distant adolescence, perfect for hazy, disconnected days.

R.R.R.G: Arching treasure heart

[back to record reviews]