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The Orchids
Beatitude #9 Stuart Huggett , January 10th, 2015 15:32

Glasgow dreamers in pursuit of perfect pop, The Orchids long ago summed up their mission in the title of their final album for Sarah Records, 1994's Striving For The Lazy Perfection. Personally and musically ambitious, the group was allied, often to its frustration, with Sarah from start to finish ("It's a prison sentence", singer James Hackett told Arketino fanzine), petering out after a last gig at the label's farewell party. Working with producer Ian Carmichael, the best moments on The Orchids' run of late 80s/early 90s records combined sensitive songwriting with sublime programming, right in the moment with early Saint Etienne and Carmichael's own, soon-to-appear One Dove. They just never made that leap out of the scene.

Still dreaming, Beatitude #9 is The Orchids' third post-reformation album, a sophisticated and largely successful continuation of their quest. Like its predecessor, The Lost Star, it retains the band's long relationship with Carmichael and guest vocalist Pauline Hynds, whose contributions to 1991's minor classic Unholy Soul were crucial. Here, she takes the lead on the 'Secret Love'-referencing 'Good Words (Are Never Long)', a whipped cream swirl of a song.

While there are plenty more upbeat moments here, from the breezy guitar pop of 'Something's Going On' to the squelchy electronic groove of 'Today's The Day', Hackett's world-weary vocals are best suited to The Orchids' softer moods. Rich with harmonies, 'A Perfect Foil' drifts along with spare piano and guitar, nodding to the autumnal shades of Pet Shop Boys' Behaviour. Better still, the delicate minimalism of 'Hey! Sometimes!' belies its excitable title with a simple chorus that's the very essence of a lovelorn sigh.

There's a couple of quality dips, with 'She's Just A Girl' and 'The Coolest Thing' being as uninvolving as their by-numbers songtitles, but the band's continuing willingness to stretch themselves makes the odd misfire forgivable. 'Someone Like You' is blocky electro funk with a brass solo, while 'Felurian's Dream' appears to be a missing, early fragment of 'Band On The Run'. And if you're thinking "Well they'd never have got away with that on Sarah Records", you probably weren't listening to The Orchids first time around either.

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