It’s very rare that one gets 20 seconds into a new album and thinks it’s going to be a keeper, a real keeper. But that is what Orange Park has managed to do to this pair of experienced ears. The band is from the Big Apple and separates itself from the horde of punk-cum-garage rock bands with leather pants and dirty shades smudged with thumbprints by creating blissful summer pop. The tandem of Jeff, Justin, and Jaye Moore (along with bassist Harv) comes off as updated versions of Soul Asylum or Collective Soul with pop smarts and a slight amount of rock brawn, especially in the sing-along choruses. This album hits the ground running, if not soaring, with a polished and pop-perfect “Make Up Your Mind” that strikes all the right spots in all the right moments, and contains just enough edge to keep it interesting without becoming a parody of other bands’ work. Think of groups like Lifehouse or Rubyhorse (if the latter rings a bell!) and you get the idea of what Orange Park is trying to convey.
“Save Me” is led by Harv’s bass as the catchy pop enters the fray, but isn’t as powerful or impacting as the previous song. Here the band opts for a slightly clichéd California power punk flavor that should pay off with a great chorus but just barely ekes over the verses. The “woo hoo hoos” in the distance are a subtle hint at what they’re getting at, but they haven’t quite made it with this one. If it wasn’t as sugar-coated it would be great, but it’s okay as is. Orange Park shows a different side with the mid to down-tempo tone of “Once In My Life”, a song reminiscent of the standard ‘60s groove despite the riffs in the backdrop. It’s the type of song that a few bands like the Wallflowers might be able to pull off, but few could do it this well, (although “Sorry” sounds a bit like Blink-182 front man Mark Hoppus leading the Cars or the Jitters).
Overall, Orange Park tends to hit each of these songs with a passion and energy that often is the exception to the rule. “One Day” is far too sweet for its own good but will hook you immediately with the fine bass line and tight rhythm section, making it worthy of being a single. The harmonies are strong, the guitars are better, and the overall effect is much greater than the sum of its parts. The band misses the mark though with the anthem-like attempt on “Miles Away”; a decent breather in a live setting but little else. However, just when you think they’ve fallen off the rails, they pull up their bootstraps (Converse laces?) and plunge headlong into the Foo-ish “Wouldn’t Change a Thing”, a song that shifts gears almost as easily as Grohl and Company do with regularity. Perhaps the sleeper selection on Songs from the Unknown is the lighter, melancholic “Unknown” with its slight sprinkle of teen angst. The band pushes the limit with “Half as Much”, although the track has Orange Park coming off sounding a bit average, like the band has decided to sort of punch in and punch out without breaking a sweat. Nonetheless, it’s hard to find fault with straightforward rock jewels like “You and Everyone Else”.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to this record is that nothing is utterly dreadful; a few songs are slightly ordinary, but generally all of these tunes will seep into your bloodstream, particularly the rock radio riff driven “Lately”. With any luck, a few of these songs will be known by year’s end.