mon 04/03/2024

Album: Black Grape - Orange Head | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Black Grape - Orange Head

Album: Black Grape - Orange Head

Business as usual for the Mancunian rogues - and business is good

A title we must hope doesn't predict America's next President

Shaun Ryder is now known mostly for being Shaun Ryder, via any random TV programme that will pay him a couple of quid. In this light, his musical achievements have lost some of their shine over the decades. But, if given the chance, a couple of those Happy Mondays albums and the first Black Grape album still own the room.

It’s 30 years since that first Black Grape album, It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah (they weren’t!), but the band's two albums since have both been, well, pretty good, actually. And the same can be said for their fourth.

The band now consists of just Ryder and his old comrade and drug buddy Kermit (both now clean). Ryder’s voice is even more ragged than it used to be – and that’s saying something – but was this ever an issue? He and Kermit just get on with it, sounding energized, trying on a bunch of different musical hats, their lyrics chewily off-the-wall.

Proceedings open with “Button Eyes”, a boisterous salsa-inflected riot wherein Ryder channels Cilla Black (“Surprise, surprise!”) and announces, “I find it funny that I can’t sing”, but a couple of songs later comes, “In the Ground”, Ryder’s tribute to his late brother Paul, with whom he had a tricky relationship. It’s spaghetti western trap-hop and weirdly touching, despite proclaiming, “You’d sell me out for a penny in a pound - now you’re in the ground.” It might be as near as Ryder gets to heart-on-sleeve.

Other highlights include the TV theme-like, horn-led party funk of “Self Harm”, the unlikely cosmic love song “Part of Everything” (a whiff of “Born Slippy” in its synth chords), the bangin’  hooligan-acid-house of “Milk”, and the echoing skunk-dub of “Sex on the Beach” (where Ryder will “tie you up and put you in my zoo”!). At its least, Orange Head sounds like a Stereo MCs offcut, which is not so bad, but most of it’s better than that, a raucous, funkin’ blast.

Below: Listen to "Milk" by Black Grape

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