You know that bit in Superman II
(or is it Superman III?) where the man in tights
does what he knows he should never do, and stops time just so
he can go back and rescue Lois Lane? [BRENDAN'S
NOTE: Actually, that's at the end of Superman I.]
Well, I reckon Atlanta-based band The Orphins have watched this
movie a few times and decided to do the same with pop music.
In this case, they've taken something that they love as much
as Clark Kent loved lovely old Lois and held back those giant
hands of time. Only with The Orphins, it would appear that their
love is late 70's post-punk pop rather than some sleazy office
romance. Drowning Cupid sounds like it comes from
a world where XTC made This Is Pop, but not the later
altogether more fey stuff. In fact, you could say that The Orphins
have rescued XTC from feyness. It's as if Barry Andrews never
left, and Grass and Dear God never happened.
And, as much as I like some of that latter day XTC, you will hear no complaints here, because this album has the energy and freshness that Swindon's finest once had. And Drowning Cupid, despite these comparisons, definitely sounds fresh. Opening strongly with Camp Cryotop and its opening riff slightly reminiscent of The Vapors' Turning Japanese as well as some suitably angular guitar sounds, the album never lets up, and is filled with material that takes two or three listens to grab you and then never lets go.
Devilduck follows with a great Fall-like intro, whilst Chinese Proms
sounds not unlike a cross between early Devo and Chairs
There are also times, most notably on The Car Song and
Crayons In The Cold, when this album makes me think that
this is what 70's prog rock monsters Gentle Giant would have
sounded like if they'd have formed ten years later. They've
even got a track called The Octopus Song for god's sake!
(For those too young or too sensible to know, Octopus
was one of Gentle Giant's finest albums, and came complete with
a Roger Dean designed gatefold sleeve. Not for everyone, but
a real period piece all the same). The Car Song, a particular
highlight of the album, also reminds me of Stump, a short-lived,
late 80's poppy take on Beefheart who once released a single
with the immortal line "Charlton Heston's got his vest on."
Other highlights include Monochrome complete with a pounding beat, the more laidback Deadspeak, and the closing A Day In Pompeii that has some delicious "du du du's". Well, actually there's not a duff moment here! Perhaps the best of all though - along with Camp Cryotop - are Nameless with its scratchy beat and high-pitched "Wooohhhs", and the afore-mentioned The Octopus Song, which opens with an almost Ever Fallen In Love-like buzz-saw guitar and which features an almost Beatle-ish chorus and some great, vaguely psychedelic six-string sounds.
Of course, the danger with quoting these reference points is
that the reader is going to think the band in question are just
some derivative no-marks, which isn't the case at all. The beauty
of The Orphins is, that despite these references, they have
managed to come up with a sound all of their own. But if you
like any of the bands I've mentioned, there's a pretty good
chance you're going to enjoy Drowning Cupid as
much as I have. One of the best albums I've heard this year.
It seems like they were right to copy Superman after all.