Sunday, January 19, 2014

Orange Juice - Rip It Up

Rip It Up (1982) **1/2

A key line-up change renders the Apple Cider of autumn ’82 half the band they were the fresh spring of ’82. As a vital collaborator and second-in-command to Edwyn Collins, guitarist James Kirk has departed and replaced by South African percussionist Zeke Manyika. In other words, the band has evolved from gawky proto-Smiths Scots-jangle to gawky neo-soul post-Talking Heads jangle with Afro-beat pretensions. Manyika’s vocal spotlights, “Hokoyo” and “A Million Pleading Faces” are straight-up Afro-pop that stick out like two black thumbs – not unpleasant tracks that simply don’t fit in with the rest of the album at all. The stink of blatant tokenism may have inspired the Fall’s infamous lyric from the concurrent “The Classical” sneering at directors needing to insert “obligatory n*****s” in their rock videos or rhythmic line-ups. The rest of album capitalizes on a direction hinted at on the debut – Motown-inspired white soul. The title track, a minor hit, hits the mark sweetly, jubilantly, and mockingly: building a chorus around the playful taunt, “I hope to god you’re not as dumb as you make out,” is impossible to miss, but I bet millions of pop listeners were dumb enough to do so anyway. It’s one of 1982’s most stellar singles and possibly the band’s career highlight (and not just because it provided the title for a Simon Reynolds tome about post-punk, reviewed otherwhere on this site). Unfortunately it’s also by far the best song here, and even then it’s better heard in its single version – this LP version extends the length to five minutes with a superfluous coda. As a blue-eyed crooner, Collins’ vocal limitations are more apparent than they were as a charmingly awkward indie-pop teenster. The music goes down smoother and more accessibly than on the debut, but in the process scrubs a good deal of the band’s personality: what distinguishes this cruise carnival neo-funk/soul from the New Romantic likes of Haircut 100 or the Culture Club? “Louise Louise” sounds like an outtake from the debut, and “Mud in Your Eye” is a fine Al Green-esque smoothy, but overall the material is rather thin and simply not up to snuff. “I Can’t Help Myself” cloyingly homages the Four Tops, while the soggy reggae “Breakfast Time” stands out as the nadir: Collins uses the day’s first meal as a clumsy metaphor for morning sex, or something. I hate half-spoken word songs with trotting non-melodies. And when are guys in their early 20s ever going to stop bemoaning about how they wish they were young again?!

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