Invariably, indie bands are subject to scrutiny upon the release of their inaugural LPs. Inquiries ranging from "Who does the band sound like?" to "Are they any good?" yield a multitude of opinions as groups search to establish identities with fans and critics alike. The case is no different for the Oranges Band, as Baltimore's finest look to capitalize on their full length debut release, All Around.
Comprised of a dozen songs grounded in jangling guitars and edgy vocal stylings, All Around is a unique mix of pop-rock explorations and eclectic musical influences; a welcome respite from the formulaic approach many new bands opt to employ.
Upon first listen, the album will elicit obvious comparisons to the Strokes. On the tracks "Keep Your Teeth", "All That Money (You'll Get Over It)", and "Madalene", Roman Kuebler's voice shares a similar melodic drone with Julian Casablancas, as listeners find him searching for a balance between brooding singer and lyrical storyteller.
But comparing the Oranges Band with the Strokes is far too easy, and does not accurately portray the scope of the former's sound. In actuality, the ghosts of pop-rock past are evident throughout the album, as glimpses of Big Country, the Cure and the Psychedelic Furs occur at regular intervals. Even the final track, "The Trees on My Street" conjures images of days gone by; the breezy, six-minute instrumental retains a distinct Modern English flavor, as the repeating guitar riff is reminiscent of the 1982 hit, "I Melt with You". Digging still deeper into history, listeners may detect a trace of vintage Chicago in the horn work on "I'm Still Right Still".
The key to All Around's appeal lies in its tempo. It is consistently inconsistent, as the fast paced tracks "Finns for Our Feet", "My Street", and the outstanding "OK Apartment" are juxtaposed with the plodding "North Carolina" and the starkness of the album's title cut. What prevents the Oranges Band's directional changes from sounding haphazard is the weaving of Kuebler's vocals with effective guitar hooks, creating an array of distinctive songs with thought provoking catchiness to them.
Ironically, the Oranges Band's willingness to takes chances with their music is where comparisons to the Strokes end. By eschewing the temptation to record songs that sound exactly the same, the band boasts its experimental side, and proves that deviating from the curve can produce some very satisfying results.
Credit Lookout! Records with having a keen eye for talent, and the savvy for signing acts that show promise in breaking from the norm. The Oranges Band is such a signing, and All Around is an excellent debut album, one that combines forty minutes of no frills, straight-ahead pop sensibilities with unexpected sophistication.
As the current musical cycle gradually shifts away from the flood of heavily marketed/minimally talented bands, look for the Oranges Band to become an indie act that major labels soon take notice of, and aggressively pursue. Until then, enjoy All Around and everything it has to offer.