All The Way Fey BearsdenSeptember 26, 2013
adjective (feyer, feyest)
Orange Juice were the feyest of the fey. Their Velvets-by-Chic approach to music was terrifically exciting; a ramshackle beauty forever teetering on the fringes of falling apart. They remind me of teaching my kids how to ride their bikes. One minute you’re bent double and holding on to a wobbly stabiliser-free frame to stop them bothering the tarmac, the next you’re running behind them silently willing them to not turn round in amazement at what they’ve already managed, but to focus on the road ahead and zig-zag safely to a stop.
Pick any song at random from the early Orange Juice catalogue and you’ll find the sonic equivalent. At any given moment, things might unravel and the whole thing could come stuttering to an ungracious ending. On some of those records, you can practically see the 4 band members give one another excited nods of encouragement as they play their way out of the first chorus and back to the verse. (If you’ve ever had the good fortune to play in a ‘promising local band‘ (copyright Irvine Times, July 1989), you’ll know exactly what I mean). Not for OJ the mask of distortion that many a youthful band will use to cover up all manner of mistakes. Their almost-to-the-point-of-being-in-tune cheesewire-thin guitars rattling off fancy-pants major 7ths and suspended 4ths were played to sound just as Leo Fender and Friedrich Gretsch intended – clean and ringing and with a nice touch of reverb. For Orange Juice, it was always about the angle of the jangle. But you knew that already.
One of the very finest in a fine, fine back catalogue is (To Put It) In A Nutshell. You’ll find it closing out the end of their debut LP, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. A perfect set-closer from an imperfect album, In A Nutshell was Edwyn Collins’ first (first!) attempt at a ballad. Another that sounds like it’s about to come undone at the seams, it was originally conceived as a duet with Nico. Shame it never quite came to fruition. Her rounded, one dimensional Germanic chamber folk vocals would’ve sounded terrific. “I looked deep within my pockets“, “You’re a heartless mercenary“, “Can I pay you in kind?” etc etc. I bet you’re singing them in faux German right now. Even the sh-sh-sh-shoo-doo bits.
I empathise with Edwyn – that ‘promising local band‘ once wrote a letter to Michael Stipe asking if he’d like to contribute backing vocals to one of our non-smash non-singles. What the fuck were we thinking? You won’t be surprised to learn he never wrote back, but ever since the demise of REM, I’ve often wondered if he’d still be up for it, 24 years later.
Anyway, back to Orange Juice.
Here’s the earlier Postcard Records version of In A Nutshell:
And here’s a rare instrumental version. Put on a German accent and go all Nico for a few minutes. So audacious, jah?: