Orange Juice - Rip It Up - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Orange Juice - Rip It Up

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:1982-11-01

I love Orange Juice’s Postcard recordings. They’re scrappy, quirky and bursting with energy. The sound of young lads in Glasgow, bouncing around town getting into hijinks. Falling in and out of love as hormones permit. But that dynamic changed somewhat when Orange Juice signed to Polydor. After some key departures, in James Kirk and Steven Daly, the band reformed with frontman Edwin Collins’ in control.

A significant change in the line-up was Zimbabwe-born drummer and songwriter, Zeke Manyika.  As of result, the new line up had a polished, more angular sound. In 1982 they released, Rip It Up. It was more Talking Heads than the Buzzcocks meets Velvet Underground of their Postcard days. This wasn’t Indie Post Punk, it was cutting edge New Wave Pop.

The move to the majors paid off and Orange Juice had a UK hit with Rip It Up’s title track. A jaunty ditty with squishy synths and tight, Funk rhythms. What remained unchanged was frontman Edwyn Collins’ absurdist croon. Whatever may have been lost or gained in the process of hitting the majors, Rip It Up remains an irresistible album.

Manyika’s, ‘A Million Pleading Faces’ deftly mixes Afro Funk with inexplicable Country slide guitar flourishes. Musically, it may be a world dance party but lyrically, there are serious social concerns on the table. “See how hard they cry, a million pleading faces,” Manyika sings. It was clear this was a band with a global consciousness and the music reflected that.

‘Mud In Your Eye’ is gorgeous Soul Pop, paving the way for bands like Spandau Ballet.  ‘Turn Away’, is a heady combo of Chic Funk and Byrds jangle while ‘Breakfast Time’ slickly touches on The Specials’ Ska territory.  A far cry from the frantic Postcard version. The Rip It Up version is polished and focused while the earlier Postcard sounds like it’s going to fall apart at any moment. This is the sound of a band having left the local scene and gone pro. Elsewhere, ‘Can’t Help Myself’ completely lives up to the title. Good luck trying to resist this one.
‘Flesh of My Flesh’ features some Burt Bacharach horns on top of an infectious dance beat. Another reason why Rip It Up is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The seemingly breezy balladry of ‘Louise Louise’ eases up a bit on what otherwise, is quite a punchy album. “I know these melodramatics don’t make everything all right,” Collins croons with biting wit. 

 ‘Hokoyo’, might just be the album’s weakest link. While it’s a danceable blend of the band’s myriad influences, it’s also the most unfocused track of the lot. The album wraps things up with Collins’ torch song, ‘Tenterhook’. Here Collins’ penchant for ironic balladry is on full display.

Orange Juice would kick around for another album or so but never quite live up to the potential they laid down here and on their Postcard recordings. As for Edwyn Collins, he’s managed to stake out a respectable solo career for himself. While he’s never quite enjoyed the level of adoration afforded to Morrissey, it’s evident Collins paved the way for the former Smiths frontman, with his defiantly effete singing style and subversively absurdist wit.

Whether you prefer their slicker side or their more ramshackle Postcard releases, there’s no denying Orange Juice were a force to be reckoned with. A band that truly deserves re-evaluation. While far more well known in the UK, they remain an all too well-kept secret in the US. In that respect, I suppose Rip It Up could be deemed a lost classic. While I personally prefer my Orange Juice a little rough around the edges, this album goes to show these boys clean up nicely.

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