The Pitchfork 500 Shambles – Orange Juice To The Clean

This post is all about the jangly, amateur sounds of shambolic Indie-Pop. It’s a sound that would go on to heavily influence everyone from REM and The Smiths, the C86 movement, Pavement to Brit Pop and beyond. Not that they realised it at the time of course. This lot were just wanting to make a sound their own on often rather limited funds. $60 in one case.

Orange Juice – Blue Boy
The Television Personalities – This Angry Silence
The Fall – The Classical
The Clean – Tally Ho!

Orange Juice, led by the talented Edwyn Collins, can be considered a prim, Scottish version of hardcore’s Straight Edge movement. Fey middle-class kids like shaven headed, angry punks, I hear you say? Hear me out. These Scots popsters weren’t so keen on the macho drinking culture of Glasgow and wanted to go a clean route, eschewing the drink and drugs prevalent in the local music scene, and replacing them with, well, orange juice. And some amphetamines. And Alan McGee’s organ.

As for “Blue Boy”, it’s got the feel of a band who hadn’t really learned to play (yet) but were trying to copy Television’s chops. Get that guitar solo! For a band that influenced a number of musicians I’m a big fan of (step forward, The Go-Betweens), I’m amazed this period of Orange Juice’s history slipped me by. I’ve already been onto Amazon to buy the compilation released a few years ago, The Glasgow School. What a great song. Sometimes, I’m really glad I’m doing the Pitchfork 500 when I find songs like this on it.

Can’t really say the same for Television Personalities though. Whilst “This Angry Silence” has got that post-Jam, earnest young working-clarse Home Counties boy ranting about his unfair life feel to it, it’s not a patch on the real Jammy thing. Another token entry for the Pitchfork crew.

The Fall’s “The Classical” marks their transition from noisy, shambolic rockabilly post-punkers to something far more interesting. The Fall of the mid-1980’s was one of the shining stars of British music; continually evolving, always sounding different yet intrinsically The Fall, caustic, excoriating, mystical lyrics from their leader Mark E Smith barked over shifting, restless, inventive backing.

“The Classical” is a torrid, yelping affair, with Smith at his angry best. Even better, there’s actually a proper tune and some semblance of songwriting skill rather than the “play one riff and keep it going” methodology of “Live At The Witch Trials” and the like.

It’s also the tune that allegedly scuppered a deal with Motown, with the label’s managers none to happy with the line “Where are the obligatory niggers?”. Mark E Smith, never one to back down from a fight, ended up getting punched in the face in a hotel bar in the US. Sadly I can’t remember who. And what were Motown doing signing The Fall anyway? All sounds a bit odd to me.

Personally, whilst it’s a great song, it’s still not a patch on the work from their true golden age – from Perverted by Language to Bend Sinister – during which there are about 20 tracks that are superior to this. So I’m not sure quite why Pitchfork have chosen this one; the write-up in the book pretty much says the same. So, for you unfamiliar with The Fall, have a listen to this then go and buy some of their classic albums1. Or go on Spotify or Last.fm. Whatever. Just make sure you listen to them.

Lastly, and not leastly, is The Clean. Now this lot really passed me by. Whilst I might have heard Orange Juice’s more famous songs (ok, “Rip It Up”), The Clean made no impact whatsoever in the UK – a point recently (and serendipitously) made in this article in The Guardian just last week 2. “Tally Ho!” reminds me of early Go-Betweens – there obviously being something in the Antipodean water to make pasty white boys play awkward, gangly pop music – and also Pavement, who admit to being heavily influenced by these chaps.

Recorded for, yes, $60, it’s got that pure shambolic feel of a band bursting with tunes and energy but without the financial means to go into a nice, big posh studio. Back in 1981, there was no Garageband, no cheap knockoff copies of Cubase or ProTools, so you had to get a decent reel-to-reel recorder worth thousands to get your song released. Unless you borrowed a mate’s cheapo recorder and just did it all yourself with some friends. The organ riff has been playing in my head fairly constantly for the past few days, which is pretty much a good sign.

So, other than the Television Personalities tune, what a great selection of music. Shambolic, yes, but full of energy, tunes and sheer bravado. Off to the States for the last four songs of this part of the Pitchfork 500.

You can find the full list here.

1 Though quite why the CD reissues have been fiddled with, putting singles and B-sides slap bang in the middle of the album, is beyond me. Ok, in this day and age it’s not too hard to edit, but still, one shouldn’t have to do this. Next time they are reissued, please sort out the track listing. Thank you.

2 And weirdly enough, I was listening to The Clean whilst reading the article in the paper, not knowing the article was in there, and not knowing I’d be listening to The Clean that morning on the way to work. How odd is that?

MP3: Blue Boy by Orange Juice

MP3: Tally Ho! By The Clean

Buy Orange Juice’s “The Glasgow School” (CD)

By “Part Time Punks: The Very Best of Television Personalities” (CD/MP3)

Buy The Fall’s “Hex Enduction Hour”

Buy The Clean’s “Anthology” (CD)

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