Post-Punk's Iconoclasm, As Mantra
When Simon Reynolds' called his lengthy study of English post-punk Rip It Up and Start Again, the writer was reappropriating a pop-song hook from Orange Juice; hijacking Edwyn Collins' droll love-that-never-was sentiments as a motto for post-punk's radical remodeling of both punk and popular music (which, circa '77 in the UK, was strangely the same thing). Reynolds was seizing on a winning phrase more than anointing Orange Juice as the embodiment of the post-punk ideal, but there's an undeniable tacit approval in taking one song by one band and making that the totem of your study of a movement, of an entire era of indie music.
They may not have been the ne plus ultra of the post-punk ethos, but Orange Juice sure possessed it. They, like so many of their peers, were art-school intellectuals, disinterested in easy clichés, happy to court commercial success, and open to musical influences from a wide range of genres. After their early singles and 1979 debut LP, You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, minted the jangling indie-pop sound —harkening back to '60s pop and its golden, glinting guitars— Orange Juice's second album, Rip It Up, took things further.
If punk had found musicians wearing rudimentary skills like a badge-of-honor, things changed in the post-punk era, dramatically; and Rip It Up is a slickly-played record. David McClymont's bass is funky, Zeke Manyika's percussion precise, the brand-new synths bright and shiny, and the blasting Dick Morrissey saxophone solo in "I Can't Help Myself" unapologetically 1982. Orange Juice were forged with a love of Motown, but here they draw from black music less of the canon, like '70s disco-funk dons Chic or Afro-pop trailblazer Thomas Mapfumo; playing a wiry, tight, propulsive indie-funk that sounds both defiant yet bashful, like a crew of Scottish wallflowers unexpectedly buoyed by the power of the funk.
Supposed to Sound/(Not) Very Profound
Collins, Orange Juice's leader and sole constant, formed the band under the name The Nu-Sonics, in 1976, as a Glaswegian teen. By 1979, they were reborn as Orange Juice, and in 1980 began releasing a run of classic singles for the classic label Postcard; a local DIY imprint that billed its post-punk indie-pop as The Sound of Young Scotland. Those early tunes set Collins and James Kirk's guitars against each other, minting a jangly sound of cleanly-played, open-ended, chiming-and-peeling patterns. But after Kirk and Collins had a falling out circa You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, Collins rebuilt the band as something far smoother; the slickness of the playing suddenly giving his debonair persona and lyrical witticisms a more upscale air.
Collins' delivery and lyrics would influence a litany of alt UK crooners, from Morrissey, Momus, and Jarvis Cocker in the '80s, through Stuart Murdoch (of Belle and Sebastian in the '90s and Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand) in the '00s. Rip It Up is, at times, more about the groove than the words, but there's plenty of prime Collins herein.
"To those who are snide/And those who connive/I say love cannot be contrived," Collins sings in "Mud In Your Eye," showing both his elegant economy of syllables and the (melo)dramatic undercurrent of so many of his words, which seem to chiefly involve affairs that never were, girls who thwarted him with beauty or indifference, and his feelings of failure, resentment, and good-natured self-mockery. "Have a wonderful birthday, dear," Collins smirks, amidst the Byrdsian country of "Louise Louise," "It only comes but once a year/I'll spoil your party with a punky sneer."
And Collins was a punk, and so were Orange Juice. But Rip It Up was, in the face of the conservatism of punk's three-angry-chords, defiantly not of the genre. It sounds like nothing more than a bright record from the dawning of new-wave's synth-pop pleasantry; one expertly played, eccentrically assembled, shot with a definite sense of defiant snark, and ripping up rules as it goes.
Record Label: Polydor
Release Date: November, 1982