The Oranges Band
The World & Everything In It
he Oranges Band are from Maryland, and judging from their music, you might think they spend more time downstate in Ocean City than in Baltimore, where they formed. In sound and in spirit, their music casually evokes beaches and boardwalks far more than the dirty harbor of their hometown. They’re not above laying it on a little thick in case you miss it, though: sand and surf adorn the cover of their 2nd full length, The World & Everything In It, released in the middle of summer, and two songs have the words “ride” and “wave” in the title. Even the lyrics of a song called “The Mountain” reference the ocean and the shore.
Like frequent tourmates The Hold Steady (Craig Finn wrote their latest press bio) and Lookout! labelmates Ted Leo/Pharmacists, The Oranges Band trade in the kind of meat-and-potatoes riff rock that sounds vaguely pre-indie, but isn’t particularly retro. The tense staccato strums of their guitars and the rigid shuffle of their drums almost seem to represent some kind of neutral, platonic ideal of guitar music without actually being that ideal or exciting. It’s a sound that’s comfortably conventional, but not splashy enough or as focused on hooks and harmonies to be categorized as power pop.
But the bland sonic makeup of The Oranges Band (originally formed as just The Oranges) is redeemed by the insistently chugging rhythms that helped their simple songs go down easy in smoky nightclubs and on their first album, 2003’s All Around, and the three EPs that preceded it. So the slight variations on their formula on The World & Everything In It aren’t necessarily a welcome change. While they don’t try to pull off any ballads, the handful of slower songs drag more than they have a right to, and fail to hint at any depth or versatility that’s missing from the straight-ahead rockers. If, like Superchunk, the up-tempo uniformity of The Oranges Band’s early material is a strength, then they can be accused of arriving a little too quickly at the more gentle phase that Superchunk took at least six or seven albums to get around to.
Singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler, who previously fronted Roads To Space Travel and briefly played bass in Spoon, wrote and produced every song on The World & Everything In It. But The Oranges Band don’t particularly sound like the work of one dominant personality, and are at their best when they sound like a faceless surf rock band that happens to have let some aloof vocals float over their driving riffs.
In fact, a floating, distant feeling hangs all over the album. Up until the searing lead guitar line of “Atmosphere,” tucked away in the penultimate position, the whole album can easily wash over the listener without demanding their attention. The album does, however, sound pretty good when it’s too hot to move or think, which tends to happen a lot around this time of year. So there might be something to that summer theme The Oranges Band are pushing after all. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have a plan for keeping anyone listening in a few months when the weather gets cold again.
Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-07-21