Smashing Orange: 1991

Hunter Felt

Unsurprisingly, the work by this forgotten shoegaze band is, well, extremely forgettable.

Smashing Orange


Label: Elephant Stone
US Release Date: 2005-05-31
UK Release Date: 2005-06-13
Amazon affiliate

It was Frank Zappa, I believe, who warned that the world would not end in fire or ice, but rather in nostalgia. With the rapid acceleration of nostalgic revivalism, at a certain point, the world would start feeling nostalgic about the present moment and at that point the world would come to a complete standstill. If you look at the signs, there's plenty of warning that Zappa's prophecy may be coming true sooner than even he expected. I wasn't the only one who noticed I Loved the '90s, right? I wasn't the only one who noticed that Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, Beck, and Weezer all just had major modern rock radio hits in the last few months? I didn't hallucinate the news that Rhino Records had already compiled its '90s box set compilation? Just a few days ago, Billy Corgan announced that he wanted to reform the Smashing Pumpkins, the same day that Vanilla Ice performed a Destiny's Child song on network television! Do I really need to say any more to convince people that the end is nigh?

Even if I am overreacting, just a tad, it seems shocking that labels are now trying to revive bands from the '90s already. Not to be confused with the aforementioned Pumpkins, Smashing Orange was an American shoegaze band that went unnoticed in here but received some notice in the notoriously short-attention span world of the British music press. 1991 is a collection of their 1991 singles, most of which were never released in the States. I suppose Elephant Stone Records decided, with Kevin Shields's nominal return to the public sphere via Lost in Translation and the relative success of electro-shoegaze project M83, now is as good time as any to attempt to bring back shoegaze, that would-be "next big genre" of a decade past. However, Smashing Orange's singles, simply put, are not exciting enough to really revitalize interest in a genre that was never popular in America in the first place.

Shoegaze, for those too young to remember, was an attempt at mixing the feedback and noise experiments of White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground with the strong melodic core of power-pop. My Bloody Valentine, by all modern accounts, began the trend with their early EPs and Isn't Anything, and also effectively ended the genre with 1991's Loveless, which pretty much pushed the genre to its utmost limits. In fact, most of the shoegaze bands such as Lush, Ride, and even Smashing Orange changed their sound following the impossible-to-top Loveless.

The problem with Smashing Orange's 1991 is that the songs were out of date shortly after they were released. Smashing Orange was, at best, a second-tier shoegaze band, who had the sound down to a formula but lacked that real creative spark that would allow them to breakthrough the mob of likeminded bands. It's not like the band doesn't have a firm grasp on the genre. The guitars swoop in and out in glorious layers of feedback, as the vocalists, siblings Rob and Sara Montejo, coo and croon somewhere in the bottom of the mix, obscure by the wall of noise. Occasionally the rush of noise suggests romance and sex, like in the woozy "Only Complete in You", and occasionally the band channels the fuzz into a more garage-punk context, like in the album highlights-by-default "Felt Like Nothing" and "Sugar". Smashing Orange knows all the little sonic tricks, but lacks the songwriting skills to compensate for the band's lack of originality.

Maybe Smashing Orange was just unlucky enough to find itself accomplished in a genre that turned out to be too limiting. The shoegaze sound found itself bound by its own rules, something that is evident on "Sidewinder", one of Smashing Orange's more interesting failures. On "Sidewinder", the conflict between the experimental noise factor and the pop song factor ends in a mutual loss, with the pop song approach preventing the song from going into potentially interesting fractured noise-rock bliss and the experimental feedback and unconventional structure preventing the song from being the strong pop song it could have been. Smashing Orange ultimately sounds like a group of fence-sitters, and their music suffers from this lack of commitment.

While a relatively easy listen, nothing can beat the sheer ear-ringing bliss of feedback-laden music when the volume's cranked up, there's nothing even remotely essential on 1991. I'm still confidant that the upcoming, world-ending, way too early '90s revival will result in the discovery of countless forgotten gems, but Smashing Orange's 1991 is not one of them. No need to wait long. By my calculations, the Britpop revival should be here towards the beginning of October.






Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.