Once upon a band called The Fall, Martin Bramah was the original guitarist in this most important and seminal Manchester group. But the overwhelming directing fist of Mark E. Smith dictated otherwise and Bramah left along with original keyboard player, Una Baines, to form The Blue Orchids. While The Blue Orchids have had their stops and starts over the last 37 or so years, Bramah has seen fit to reform the band with a new line-up, a series of re-issues and a brand new album, The Once And Future Thing. And for someone who’s been around for as long as Bramah has, he still has a lot of the youthful energy that makes this a fun and interesting listen.
Opening with the very mid-’60’s/garage-y “Good Day To Live”, things are off on a very high level; catchy and driving, with the right dash of snarling punk-y vibes for good measure. “Jam Today” has a late-period Kinks feel and is equally catchy and “Motorway” definitely harkens back to Bramah’s days with The Fall (think “Bingo Master’s Breakout”) except with more structure and no punctuations of “uh” at the end of every sentence (besides, only Mark E. Smith can do that). “Rosy Hours” is a crisp, acoustic-based dirge that has atmosphere and feel, plus some very deft electric guitar figures in the middle and is a surprising high point.
“Whiskey Burn” reminds me of an even-more off-kilter Doors track crossed with The Pogues (!); “Iron Tree” is a very 1980-feeling piece – not sung but half-narrated and uptempo and “Road To Perilous” reminds me of an early solo-period Julian Cope and again, has that mid-’60’s garage feel. All in all, a very satisfying product from this latest incarnation of Blue Orchids.
While there will be some inevitable moments and comparisons to the old Fall sound and some of Bramah’s vocal inflections, this is an immensely pleasurable and enjoyable album that says “welcome back” to a band that’s never received their day in the sun. Perhaps now Blue Orchids are the future thing.
The Once And Future Thing will be released on Friday, June 3rd, 2016.