Album: Rip It Up – Orange Juice
Review: NME, 13 November 1982
Author: Richard Cook
I JUST played Buddy Holly‘s version of ‘Rip It Up’ to remind me, although Edwyn Collins gives the impression he is unfamiliar with such iconography, Orange Juice‘s Rip It Up is a development of an altogether more wistful deal on life: such is the cycle of youth music, so are our salad days enfeebled.
Orange Juice are a minor group trying hard to be bigger and more significant than they really ought to be. Their wan series of Postcard singles served them better than any fetchingly polished album ever will: their real dimension is best considered through the blurred viewfinder of those scratchy, bashful records. The difference between ‘Breakfast Time’ here and its Postcard prototype is that between nervous energy and familiar excitement.
Or, to nail it down, Collins’ interests and attitudes melt away in the glare of a clear focus. The fatuous ruminations on love in ‘Mud In Your Eye’ and ‘Louise Louise’ betray the indolence of his thinking, tepid variations on pop hackery long since consigned to public domain free-for-alls. The music they devise to accompany these musings is mostly old-fashioned, alarmingly reminiscent in places of the kind of genteel lace-making of the likes of Caravan. The clarity which has served the Banshees so well serves principally to highlight the clean digital momentum of a faceless pop music.
Sometimes it is a little more than that, because the arrival of drummer/vocalist Zeke Manyika does effect a bizarre revitalisation in places. Manyika’s presence seems so contrary to the spirit of Juice – which, despite Collins’ protestations, remains essentially lacking in red corpuscles – that the impossible works and something raised on a different spirit rises up. ‘A Million Pleading Faces’ and particularly ‘Hokoyo’, where Manyika lakes the lead vocals, have the infectious upswing that characterises the finer syntheses of white pop and black dance.
But those moments pass, and always we have to return to Collins’ spineless singing and naive critiques of romance. What is most clearly missing from Orange Juice is wit, a commodity they seemed to be circling around on their amusing retread of ‘L.O.V.E.’ There it appeared that Collins could end up as Green’s embarrassed and guileless cousin – except there is none of the resplendent style of Songs To Remember in Rip It Up. ‘I Can’t Help Myself‘, a fairly doltish melange of familiar pop hooks, shows they have no idea of what irony is.
Collins’ worst failing is his overweening sentimentality. Perhaps he and Buddy Holly aren’t so far apart at that.
So…..having spent at least two years building up Orange Juice, the NME decides that it’s time for a hatchet job with this consideration of their second studio album.
It’s worth remembering that Orange Juice’s move to Polydor Records had caused great angst among the uber-hacks for whom all indie releases were great and no time should be given to those on majors. A bit of slack had been cut for You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever which had come out just eight months earlier in that the debut album had many songs dating from the live shows played when they were very much in indie-land, but the fact that it hadn’t yielded the sort of success the paymasters at the label had anticipated meant that it was sort of open season on the band, and as you can see from the above, particularly on Edwyn.
Rip It Up isn’t that great an album, but the reviewer in this instance gets it spectacularly wrong with his take on things, as evidenced by him suggesting that I Can’t Help Myself shows they have no sense of irony when the entire song, and its delivery, is dripping with it. It’s also interesting that he suggests that the two songs on which Zeke takes the lead as being the best, or at least the most interesting when most fans simply saw them as diversionary and helping to pad out a record which really should have been allowed more time to develop and finish, except that the label bosses were putting ridiculous demands on the band.
I’m pretty sure that Edwyn was, by now, regretting inking the deal with Polydor, certainly from the creative aspect. I’m also thinking that there was every chance the band would have been dropped in early 1983 if the album had been a commercial flop, and perhaps the NME boys were hearing of such a possibility and so decided to land their blows as if to get ready to say, ‘we told you so.’ Edwyn & co, of course, had the last laugh thanks to the title track becoming a huge hit single.
Orange Juice would never make another album like Rip It Up, driving their bosses crazy but making their fans incredibly happy in the process, and hopefully pissing off those, like Richard Cook, who were looking in the wrong places for what made the band so special.
The fascinating thing is that the subsequent longevity of Edwyn’s career has, in part, led to a reassessment in many places of the album. For instance, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, a reference book first published in 2005 which compiles the thoughts of music critics on what they think are the most important, influential, and best records since the 1950s and publication, included Rip It Up.
And the dear old NME, in 2014, had the title song at #216 in its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
The third of these tracks has a backing vocal contribution from the mighty Paul Quinn, while the fourth is a re-tread of a song from the Postcard era. ‘Fatuous ruminations on love’ ? Ha, fucking ha.