Monday, July 9, 2012

Orbit: Libido Speedway (Retro-Review)

The best thing about late ‘90s rock was that it all vaguely sounded like early ‘90s rock, mostly Nirvana. The worst thing about late ‘90s rock was that it all vaguely sounded like early ‘90s rock, again mostly Nirvana. There were a few bands out there that formed around the same time (or 5 years or so later), but ended up getting caught up in the backlash that most grunge/’90s alt-rock purists unleashed against these bands for “ripping off Nirvana” though. One of these bands, that was pretty much on the receiving end of my scorn, was Orbit. A three piece comprised of fuzzy, distorted and feedback drenched guitar, bass, and drums from Boston, MA (home of The Pixies-Orbit’s main influence-and the band that Nirvana ripped off), Orbit would actually win me over with their one and only major modern rock hit, “Medicine.” It was one of those rare songs that I could just listen to over and over again without getting tired of. It still is…

The only real hit for the band, and off their 1997 album Libido Speedway, “Medicine” is one of those simple, repetitive and cyclical rock songs that really doesn’t do anything innovative musically or lyrically, but it has a beat and structure to it that is almost trancelike in its ability to lull you out of any funk or rut you are in and take you somewhere. This isn’t because it is particularly enlightening or uplifting like Pearl Jam’s “Given To Fly” or U2’s “Walk On.” It reaches you on a deeper level. It taps into the reptilian brain that buried under all the meta-cortex and cerebellum-ous gray matter that bogs us down most of the work-away day. The rising, falling, and, there’s no other way to put it, orbital sway of the bass and drums around each other with the requisite ‘90s alt-rock sounding guitars weaving in and out, conjures up images of cyclical movement and balance. I don’t know how else to describe it. A song that should be pretty boring is in actuality a ‘90s alt-rock version of trance (the music). I never tire of this song.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the rest of the album. While there are some great mosh worthy songs that the Kool-Aide hair dyed kids, and the me, of the ‘90s would have really had a great time moshing to, having sex to, and generally being a wide eyed twenty-something with no idea on what to do with their lives to (as opposed to a wide eyed thirty-something suffering from the same affliction), the rest of the songs on the album don’t really hold up to the power of “Medicine” or any of Kurt’s or Black Francis’ songs.

The me of the ‘90s is long gone, but sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep, I’ll cue Orbit up on the iPod and program repeat on “Medicine” and I’ll float away in an orbit of late night reminiscing over the good ole’ days of rock…and life. Then I’ll fall dead asleep dreaming I was that ‘90s twenty-something who could have taken off work to see them at SXSW last year… 

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