Music

The Orange Peels Trace the Evolution of a Song with "Something Strange Happens" (premiere)

Photo: Karen Mason / Courtesy of Fanatic PR

The upcoming reissue of the Orange Peels' 1997 debut album offers 40 tracks and plenty of insights into the group's creative process. Bandleader Allen Clapp recalls how one stunning song blossomed.

With a 40-track deluxe reissue of the Orange Peels' 1997 debut album Square forthcoming, the band offer up a fresh look at "Something Strange Happens". The track appeared on bandleader Allen Clapp's 1993 solo album in addition to Square.There is also an alternate studio mix, a remastered version, and a brand new, previously unissued version available.

Listening to the track now, it's hard to believe that it didn't become more of a sensation in its time: Built on steady, power-pop rhythms and harmonies, featuring soaring vocals and memorable choruses, it has all the makings of a hit. Or at least the kind of hit that music critics imagine will be a hit. It's made of all the stuff that fans of Marshall Crenshaw, the Posies, and Big Star appreciate and, in its way, predicts the more recognizable elements of power punk and emo. The evolutions prove that at the end of the day if a song is great at its core, what it wears or doesn't wear hardly matters.

Clapp recently penned the follow observations for PopMatters on the song:

"Some songs are the result of crafting, pounding, tweaking, and wordsmithing. Others just show up, unannounced, and start playing, fully produced, in stereophonic sound inside a writer's head. 'Something Strange Happens' is the story of the latter. How one day, when my 24-year-old self was finishing up some routine shopping, this thing just arrived and played itself start to finish while I sat there stunned in the parking lot.

"And the song itself is mostly about the song's arrival. It turns out it was more than just music that was delivered into my consciousness that day. It was like a download from the universe, instantaneous and eternal, and it changed my whole perspective about life. Suddenly I could see my place in the world. How brief life is. How my strength would come from being vulnerable. How love comes from being open to possibilities. All of it was pouring out of this melody and these words. It was like coming face to face with God.

"Twenty-five years later, it's still as mysterious as the day it arrived. My life is tied to that song in some mysterious way. It comes to me around times of great change and reveals something new to me. Late in 2019, it showed up again, demanding my attention. It's not like I needed there to be another version of 'Something Strange Happens', it's more like the song wanted there to be another version. Or maybe I just wanted to see if I could still hit those high notes (and add some even higher ones).

"'Something Strange Happens (Autumn Fills the Skies)' makes the fourth and newest version of the song on this release. The remastered version from Square is here, as is an outtake from the Square sessions, the initial mix the band made with Bryan Hanna, and which may, in some ways, be a better, more expansive mix of the song. For historical perspective, the original four-track version of the song is here. The one that turned heads when it showed up on One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain back in 1994. The one I recorded hours after driving home from that Safeway parking lot."

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