ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : RIP IT UP

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.

JC adds…….

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.

mp3: Orange Juice – Rip It Up (album version)
mp3: Orange Juice – A Million Pleading Faces
mp3: Orange Juice – Mud In Your Eye
mp3: Orange Juice – Louise Louise

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.

JC

7 thoughts on “ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : RIP IT UP

  1. In the early 80s, Richard Cook was the man at NME that you expected to find the next new thing and then the man they chose to bring things all tumbling down to make way for the next ivory tower… He may have been instrumental in programing their wonderful series of Cassettes at the beginning of the decade, but he was also a band’s worst enemy when someone on high was ready for something else.
    Another thing that always got me about Mr. Cook’s writing, is a frequent lack of coherence from one sentence to the next. His comparison of the music on Rip It Up to the genteel approach of Caravan is followed by some thought on the clarity of The Banshees – a band he really enjoyed criticizing until A Kiss In The Dreamhouse just completely shut him down (the album where clarity was nowhere to be found and dense lush psychedelic arrangements were its driving force) – which seems to be pulled out of nowhere.
    JC – your calling Cook out on his missing the point spectacularly on I Can’t Help Myself is spot on .
    Finally, Cook was always a Jazz man. I always felt he didn’t quite fit at NME in the early 80s. He had some influence as the Cafe Jazz Pop Scene was birthed and gave voice to Afro-Pop as part of his legacy at the NME.

  2. Love Orange Juice and pretty much all of Collins’ solo stuff (inc singles with Paul Quinn and also things he produced etc etc). Anything I may like to add has been summed up a million times better by Echorich (below) who nails Collins’ irony and humorous lyrics that seemed to fly right over the head of the po faced Cook.

  3. I was just going to say “Richard Cook? What a fucking tool,” but my brother ER handled it more eloquently.

  4. I started reading NME and the other music rags at age 14 so I missed this classic slab of pretentious twaddle. However, I twigged early on that I would largely ignore the reviews, take some of the interviews with a pinch of salt and generally just go out and discover new music, regardless of how much it was slated in the music press. I love Rip It Up (the song) and whilst the album version and a fair bit of the album itself are quite up to much, it was still a darn sight better than a lot of the ‘mainstream’ pop pap at the time. And, for reasons I can’t explain given that it’s a fairly standard band shot, I love the album cover too.

  5. Not that great an album but certainly one i can listen to today. It stands up today better than Richard Cook’s review.

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