It could well be that The Orchids passed you by. The Scottish five piece James Hackett (vocals), John Scally (guitar), Chris Quinn (drums), Matthew Drummond (guitar) and James Moody (bass) formed in 1986, releasing a whole host of material on the tiny but (subsequently) hugely influential and loved Sarah Records label. Splitting up in 1995, playing their final gigs at the Sarah records farewell party, they returned (with new bassist Ronnie Borland) in 2004, releasing a couple of albums – Good to Be a Stranger in February 2007 and 2011’s The Lost Star through Pebble Records
Out now is the bands sixth album, Beatitude#9, through Spanish label Acuareladiscos. Listening to the album, there’s a mixture of things going on. Its not a record that has Sarah Records boarded up on the front – they were never like that anyway. There are moments on the album that hark back to intorverted, mop top jangle pop, particularly the brilliant Somethings going on, She’s Just a Girl and (to an extent) Your heart sends me.
But there’s other things at work here. The band had already started to incorporate electronic elements in their later Sarah albums, and this, combined with the bands dreamy vocals and sometimes colourful, almost cinematic approach to things (check the trumpet solo on the funky Someone like you) tends to land somewhere between Aztec Camera and (A perfect foil) The Style Council being covered by Teenage Fanclub.
The one thing that the band always had in its favour, and the reason that its still revered amongst those of us that remember them, is they have this uncanny capability to write songs that can feel uplifting and warm and happy, bu always have just that tinge of disappointment, of melancholy about them.
A way to you scratches and weaves around at the beginning, this psychedelic feel altered by what could pass for a Spandau Ballet ballad drum pattern, but it draws you in and lets you luxuriate in its warmth. Similarly (but differently) the guitar pop of Todays the Day, which has a tint of the Manchester about it, but if the funky, lovable rascal of a tune doesn’t make your head nod, there’s something wrong about your life.
If The Orchids have passed you by before, Beatitude#9 is a good way to start. It could well be that the majority of the current purveyors of Scottish pop music have also passed them by. But with most of them you can tell that the The Orchids DNA is in there somewhere.