Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Review: Orbital - Blue Album

I'm on a bit of an Orbital binge this afternoon, and following on from Wonky I decided to give Blue Album a listen, which is a record I haven't played for quite a few years now. Released in 2004 when the band originally made the carefully planned decision to split up, this album was a self-conscious summary and reflection of their career, right down to the in-joke title.

As such, this album pretty much reviews itself. Early rave origins! M25! Green Album! Glastonbury 1994! Festival favourites! The Altogether was crap! Vague guesses at which classic Orbital anthems each track is supposed to retread!

This last bit is the interesting part, because apart from the self-explanatory One Perfect Sunrise (aka "Belfast + On + On"), not too many of these tracks actually line up neatly to past Orbital. Bath Time is supposed to be Style, I guess, in that it melds annoyingly trite and childish synth timbres and  melodies with genuinely pretty melodic inter-twiny-ness. And Tunnel Vision is sort of like the bleak, melancholic paranoia of something from In Sides... PETROL, perhaps. And Acid Pants has a 303 in it, so it must be Brown Album!

Generally though, it seems the whole "homage to past moments" thing was basically a neat excuse for coming up with a lot of tracks that are nice without being particularly new or inventive. The one exception would be the majestically sombre opener Transient. Nobody ever opened an album quite like Orbital, and Transient is an incredible curtain-raiser as good as anything they ever did. Elsewhere, Pants, Tunnel Vision and Lost would all have slotted neatly into previous Orbital albums. A personal highlight is the Christopher Eccleston-sampling You Lot, which is both a classic piece of Orbital social criticism and the most creative thing here, pressing a piece of sampled dialogue through a vocoder and turning it into it a twisted melodic hook.

The track that most people remember from here is One Perfect Sunrise, probably because it's gone on to be a staple of the Orbital live show, and also because a lot of people only really associate Orbital with this kind of serotonin-sunrise, last-track-of-the-night anthem. Personally, I always thought this one was a little cheesy to be perfectly honest, an example of how being self-consciously poignant usually results in becoming overblown. As some cheeky scamp on Discogs put it, it sounds like Paul Oakenfold remixing the Gladiator score.

My problem with this album is that it feels lightweight to listen to. I always skip Bath Time and Easy Serv because they are, quite obviously, joke tracks and just drag down the moodiness of the rest of the album, but deleting them from the tracklist leaves it running very short at only 7 average length tracks. Blue Album does contain some individually brilliant tracks, but it's an album lacking any concept, which probably explains why I haven't felt compelled to listen to it for the last four years.

Genre: Look, just stop asking me this about Orbital albums, okay?
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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