blue speedAlbum Review

Blue Orchids: Speed The Day (Tiny Global)

CD / DL / Vinyl 

9.5/10

Out now

Possible career-best by the ‘diaphanous and majestic’ Blue Orchids – Martin Bramahs ‘august rebels’ get better with age. Ged Babey travels with them to the 22nd Century…

There have been too many angst-ridden ‘lockdown’ albums full of self-pity and ponderous art-school pretention lately…

It’s time for something sparkling and imaginative, playful and clever, familiar but new.

Mad songs about what it’ll be like a hundred years from now. Songs about speeding your tits off.  Surrealist tales and psychedelic philosophising with tunes that memorable and uplifting. From a celestial garage band who’ve been around for years…

The Blue Orchids really do get better and better. Over the past five years there has been the brilliant the Once and Future Thing  the wonderful Righteous Harmony Fist and last years covers album Magical Record  Speed The Day is the latest and possibly the greatest.

They only sell a fraction of what the beloved Stranglers sell, but if truth be told, it’s a similar sound to prime Meninblack psych stuff thanks to the organ sound, great tunes, snarky lyrics and the same influences.

So, track by track.

Deeper Than Sin – opening with the fastest song on the album, and one on which Martin Bramah uncharacteristically roars.  It seems to be the band raging against their advancing years.

Lucky Speaks  – a great, shiver-down-your-spine bassline, rolling keyboards which make you think of Inspiral Carpets in their prime,  a chorus which despite having echoes of a Simple Minds hit from yesteryear, is very affecting. The lyrics are about knowing how we feel, without words. (Should’ve been an instrumental then really).

Classy Fella – is a great piece of pastoral jazz psych whimsy on the face of it – with a snide, sarcastic lyric made up entirely of brickbats thrown at Martin on social media. It’s utter genius.


25 Or 6 To 4 – I’d never heard the (quite, quite horrible) original of this by Chicago – but Blue Orchids completely rehabilitate it – so much so that it’s almost the best track on the album.

Street Of Flowers    just perfection.  Because we have ‘the Flower Roads’ locally (streets named after different flora – but actually a rough as fuck area)  I guess this isn’t as hippy-dippy as it sounds.  Shed your careworn coat – cast it from you / Leave behind – the world and all its powers  / On the street of flowers

Whilst the songs on ‘side one’ are all great individually, side two is majestic and each song gels with the next and you just have to hear them all in sequence.

What Lies Beneath  Rhythm section excel on this. Smart wordplay too. What lies beneath / What lies were told.

Like A Clockwork Orange  A loose jam of a song with jazzy ‘breakdowns’ like in the Buzzcocks ’16’ and the vibe of Magazines 20 Years Ago (to me anyway). A reference to Nico appears and vanishes amongst gobbledegook like:

I’ll be your guru lover
I’ll be your pink banana
I’ll make you eat it sideways
I’ll post it on the ether

I have my suspicions that the song is actually about eating a Terrys Chocolate Orange whilst tripping… but maybe that’s just me.

The Pebble  on which Martin makes strange bird-of-prey noises very reminiscent of MES on New Face In Hell. The lyric is a Blue Orchidian variation on the old ‘When a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?’  I dropped a pebble in a pond and walked away / Consequences still imagining I walked away…

Meet The Maker – Probably sheer coincidence but this reminds me of Nick Caves I Call Upon the Author To Explain.   The Maker in question could well be God or whatever deity you wish, but equally could be Bramah having a dig at the authors of many a Fall book he features therein.

22nd Century  A stunning, all too short finale. I love this song.  It’s as silly as it is profound. It’s whatever you want it to be. Fantasy without being all goblins and gremlins: although amongst the questions asked: Will we still have electricity?  Will we still need money? is…  Or will the Witches rise to rule us  … and will we all grow roots and branches?

There is loads of elemental imagery running throughout the album: the ocean, sky, mountains, tides. References to nature: pebbles, branches, roots, flowers…. balanced against only one mention of ‘the big city’.  It’s more magic than magic-realism…

The term Psychedelia covers all manner of musics nowadays – but it occurred to me (in the middle of the night) that this album is possibly what a 60 year old Syd Barrett or Marc Bolan might have sounded like had they lived…and got a garage band together for fun.

Personally I think Martin Bramah is as great a song-writer as both of them, with his own idiosyncrasies and style and a superb band of musicians in the current line-up. The Last Great Mancunian poet too when you look at the lyrics to Speed The Day:

I plunge into the depths and see myself mirrored in your tears /  In my heart I hear a cry like the howling of the years.

It’s deep man, deeper than sin. The only thing wrong with Speed The Day is that it whizzes by. All the songs seem too short…

 

Buy from Bandcamp 

All words Ged Babey

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.

5 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a great album, as are most of Bramah’s, from Live at the Witch Trials onwards. It may even be his best. Comparing them with a bunch of mysogynistic has-been Londoner Doors copyists is a bit of an insult though. The Barrett and Bolan comparisons are far closer, and I would add the original Modern Lovers… but the current Blue Orchids are not in thrall to any other group… they are themselves.

    • Website boss John Robb is a big fan of Stranglers – they have an album out soon – their coverage gets lots of attention. I only felt the need for a rough comparison to them in terms of punk era roots / organ sound and the fact that surely some fans of Stranglers would genuinely enjoy the Blue Orchids music …if they gave it a try. I was trying to flag down any passing trade… if you know what I mean. Personally, I haven’t bought a Stranglers album since I left my teens. Agree about the original Modern Lovers. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Alan – I don’t think Ged was saying they were in thrall to the Stranglers but it’s good to see that band occaisonaally get a nod as they aare vertainly not a music writers or hipster band and have been removed from the narrative despite being the first band to come up with that bass driven sound that was so key to the post punk period. I don’t think the Stranglers are has beens any mnore than you would call the Blue Orchids has beens – they are both older groups who still record new material – the onkly difference is that the upcoming Stranglers album looks like it could be a number one album – I would like to see the same for Blue Orchids as well. The Doors were an influence on the Stran glers as much as the VU or the Stooges were an influence on other bands – the Stranglers used keyboards differently though. The mysoginist tag has stuck for decades but then there are many bands that have saiud and done unpleasent things and made great records – you are a big fan of The Fall so you know about that!

  2. I’m the guy who put out the record, and you both have a point!

    Blue Orchids have generally had a pretty muscular bass sound, not unlike Jean-Jacques Burnel’s, despite Bramah’s band having had a number of different bassists with distinct styles. His songs seem to work with the sort of undertow that comes from a solid bass line, throw in the organ and yeah . . . that’s a fair comparison. (One could even add in a certain shared penchant for odd mysticism.) Since Blue Orchids are only starting to receive the acclaim they’ve deserved for years, I’d be happy if the comparison led some people who like The Stranglers’ sound to check out this far superior group.

    But as I have to tell The Stranglers constantly, “I’m just not ever going to put out your records. Quit asking.” Mostly for the reasons that Alan has made.

    • Great you are releasing the album and great they are getting their deserved acclaim.
      I will push the review towards Stranglers fans.
      Ha – I’m certain the Stranglers have never asked to be on your lable John !

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