The Orlando discography, with a little history thrown in.
Orlando came into being a long, long time before the first singles began to emerge blinking into the cold world. To find Tim and Dickonís first release, however, we must look to the extremely indie shores of the late Sarah Records. Here, a single was produced by a band under the name of Shelley (a name akin to Shelmerdine, the lover of Woolfís Orlando), and duly sent out to charm and soothe those who took it in and sat it by the fire. This was the "Reproduction Is Pollution" EP, the only Shelley release. Its three tracks span the range from intellectual assault to breathtaking, heart-stopping, exquisite loveliness.
The title track sees Dickon providing the main Ďvocalí, a spoken word affair explaining exactly why procreation is not an inevitable or desirable act. Unlike many such opinionated pieces, however, a warm alternative is apparent within the confines of its jangly self; "While those around us chose to settle down and die, we went on, and played and wrote and fought, and didnít notice anything as meaningless as age; because we were beyond all that now, we had outgrown age." If two point four children seems more attractive to you, we will be doomed to the placidity of agreeing to disagree. Forever.
"Prejudice" is a simpler piece of guitar loveliness, a longing vocal by Tim as the words are echoed by voices dropping in gently, endearing innocence: "Longing, preaching, wishing, yearning forever...and ever and ever and ever". Itís a song full of wide hopeful eyes and hidden dreams.
"Hero" is simply unbelievable. A captivating, breathtaking, whispering thread of light constructed from the simplest elements, heading straight for the heart; taking no prisoners but killing them with the beauty of what they were always thinking and LONGING for. The feeling of walking out of that film or finishing that book and being softly shell-shocked... itís been found again; but here, it never fades. One of those moments, unbearably undisguised love... Suddenly, the words "Itís not worth waiting for", "Iíve never felt at home"...they mean everything... and then, "Canít you see? Youíre so like me"... yes, YES, EXACTLY! And you know youíre lost. The essence of purity.
My clear-cut and eternal favourite record, if it had all ended there.
But Orlando lived, and Orlando came to be so much more than we could have hoped. My first intuition into the Orlando Nation came near the brink of "Just For A Second"ís release; in the meantime, the band had flitted across the cover and the pages of the Melody Maker, leaving one track on a tape; "Natureís Hated". An anthem, never embryonic but always a complete concept; perfectly self-possessed in its conscious separation, the self-destructive icy detail with which we (its protagonists by association) see the world we are forever excluded from. Never mind the little things that mark it as a demo/tour promo, the far-from-perfect vocal recording, the situation into which it was received. Somehow a perfect balance was born out of disillusionment and that unnameable feeling carried within. The strings have a wonderful quality that make the song stately and elegant without any danger of being too self-serious. Oh, be kind; you are asking me to explain the unexplainable.
The debut single: "Just For A Second" is the sort of joyous/joyless anthemic surge that is far too much to take in all at once, running away with you in a glorious sweep of pop that kidnaps your emotions and sends them sky high before the intelligence can get to you first; then stops you, forces you to hear exactly what those lyrics are saying. It is possible to stare at the sleeve of this record for upwards of half an hour. The faces and the words so close were a thrill to those of us whoíd been waiting seemingly forever. So much beauty in one place. An inspiration and a sudden new way to look.
"Something To Write Home About", after two versions of the first song, creeps into your soul before your self-preservation instinct kicks in to reach for the pause button. Suddenly, the uplifting pop, the guitars and drums have disappeared, leaving you so alone with Tim and a stark piano-based backing. Words are everything. Sex is a horribly discovered secret, something rotten which, once uncovered, lies a constant reminder and a sadness. We may have agreed and nodded with the sentiments behind "Reproduction...", but this shoots the realisation into you, makes you feel the emptiness and desolation. Thereís no maturity, no initiation, only the theft of such treasured childhood. The dreams carried like a banner towards adulthood no longer seem so proud. I have come to see my life as one relentless progression towards the Something To Write Home About Moment.
"The Trouble With You" is an interview conducted by Simon Price and Taylor Parkes, a full transcript of which was sent with the first Company Communication mailout. Dickon and Tim discuss restaurants, appearance and many other topics in a manner which was described in an NME freebie as "ultra-precious", and is therefore the opposite... The musical backing is a brass/wind repeating piece, which others appear to object to, but which I personally find pleasant...
The Magic EP came along amidst refreshed hopes, after the distribution difficulties that had seemed to plague the first release. It consists of four tracks, all in different musical styles, but with one thing in common; some of Dickonís most naked and simply plaintive lyrics (with the possible exception of the first track). It opens with "Donít Kill My Rage".
There are many things which could be said about this song. Itís a good piece of upbeat pop with intelligent alienation lyrics and a lovely introduction. Itís got a fine vocal from Tim and some brilliant backing singing towards the end. Itís got all, or most, of the ingredients... but somehow one couldnít help awaiting that extra something to kick in, which it never quite does. Itís still a great tune and better than plenty of whatís around, but... why a single, and why this single?
Because the next track is one of their finest, and a moment not yet repeated. "Manics to swingbeat"- well, I wouldnít know. My comparison capacities are almost nil. But here is despair, and here is purity, and here is choice. Bring your young lovers and your disenfranchised alike to Dickon, and let the truth prevail. But for now, sweep all this aside, and listen. I canít describe this type of music. Itís too new and inspirational to me. An eye-opening and brilliant creation.
"Contained" is of the more romantic Orlando ilk, a gospelesque young and innocent thing that blinks with love and longing within those so intangible constraints. A touching loveliness of a song made beautiful within Timís heart-melting soar of a voice, created for it absolutely... And there is no more explanation outside of the song itself.
"Up Against It" is too close to my own feelings to inject even a trace of objectivity into any assessment of the lyrical aspect. Unrequited love is sprung onto the heart laid bare already by the preceding song, and a shiver travels down the spine as the line "I know nobody wants to love someone who too badly wants love" shivers itself into existence. You know. One of those. The all-encompassing thoughts, universally ringing true. A quote for the schoolbook cover, then.
"Natureís Hated", so long awaited, is hard to consider. Somehow, the rough edges and the rawness of the original contributed to its whole essence... the expensive, orchestral production has added some new hues to the song, but... itís a little too smooth and well done, perhaps. And they have removed "I have seen the light", for which tears should be shed. The first versionís imperfection made it perfect- such is the beauty of Orlando, in a way. Still a thing of wonder, but after giving the whole of your heart to a song... one canít help taking issue with the production of this...
"Someday Soon" should have been a single, without any doubt. One of the best of their more upbeat offerings, the combination of the "Just For A Second" bounce-round-the-room joy with an actual positive lyric is just... well... Put it this way; suddenly, life is liveable. Suddenly, thereís the strength youíd lost. This is absolutely remarkable, and itís the reason pop exists. Magic of the first soul order.
Now thatís a hard act to follow, and the eclectic Orlando approach to the problem is to throw in... a bit of bar-room jazz! But of course. This is "You've Got The Answer Wrong", with what could be a sexuality lyric... Not among their greats, but yet another departure. Show me something this lot canít get away with and make entirely their own. Just try and prove theyíre not absolutely indispensable by this stage.
The original "Natureís Hated" follows. But we know this.
Probably the best of Orlandoís slower, less Ďpoppyí songs is "How Can We Hang On To A Dream", a Tim Hardin cover and their contribution to the Fever Pitch EP. Strange territory for Orlando, some said, but isnít everywhere their territory? Certainly the song holds its own, and so much more, against the Pretenders and the Laís. No Dickon lyrics or guitar, but instead the other band members create an exquisite weave of yet more sounds produced from up their sleeves; will they ever cease to surprise us? This is better than you expect, no matter what youíre asking of it.
And a good question to leave lingering in the air... how can we hang on to a dream? A strange mixture of emotions. A confusion, a clarity, a truth. Listen. Itís the only truth.