The broader aspects of the career of Orange Juice - one of the most important indie acts of the early 80's pop scene - can be found on the recent retrospective compilation, The Glasgow School. By the time this album appeared, the band had already been together for half a decade and had released a handful of singles on the legendary Postcard label, before attempting to cut a more lo-fi debut in the form of Ostrich Churchyard, eventually released posthumously in 1992. The band scraped that garage-rock recording and decided to re-record a debut that drew more on sparking soul and pop inflections, set against the more traditional indie-style guitar sound. The result was You Can't Hide Your Love Forever... one of the best and most underrated pop albums of the 1980's.
The overall sound has certain similarities with acts like Dexys Midnight Runners and The Style Council, with the integration of soulful horns and keyboard rhythms working in harmony alongside the more traditional guitars, drums and bass. However, at the same time, it also has a lot in common with The Smiths, with certain tracks predating the jazzy guitar pop sound of Smiths' classics like Ask, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and The Cemetery Gates. Singer and main songwriter Edwyn Collins was launching his dairy to music long before Morrissey decided to ruminate on hands in gloves and suffering little children, with the lyrical subject matter sharing that knowing, self-deprecating style that looked at the foibles of young love, directionless youth and the Scottish hipster scene of the late 70's and early 80's. Like the Smiths, there are also some references to the chiming pop of The Byrds, particularly in the use of twelve-string guitars, layered on top of the more obvious melody to create a plethora of counter melodies that really compliment the crooning idiosyncratic vocals of Collins.
The album sounds as fresh today as it must have sounded in 1982, with the sound and style of Orange Juice acting as a major influence on people like Stuart Murdoch and more recently the sound and ideology of über-successes Franz Ferdinand (incidentally, both from Scotland and both raised on acts like The Fall, Orange Juice, Josef K. and Felt). There's no real hint of dated 80's production, with the OJ's going for a 60's style Phil Spector sound with elements of the 70's new wave of bands like The Modern Lovers, Television and The Talking Heads... whilst Collins' fey, dejected and slightly cynical lyrics remain as timeless as ever. The overall sound of the album is perfectly introduced on opening track Falling and Laughing, with that classic Tom Verlaine-style guitar sound fusing with the soul element and Collins' soul searching vocals ("I'm not saying we should build a city of tears, all I'm saying is I'm alone and consequently, only my dreams satisfy the real need of my heart... and I resist").
The whole album fits together surprisingly well, never falling into the trap of sounding like a collection of singles (like a lot of today's acts). The style wavers between horn-filled soul expressions like the Talking Heads-esque Satellite City, the James Kirk penned Wan Light and the great Al Green cover L.O.V.E. Love, with more acoustic indie-type songs like Intuition Told Me (Part One), Consolation Prize and the lovely second track Untitled Melody. On the whole, the songs written by lead guitarist James Kirk (Wan Light, Three Cheers For Our Side) are more complex pieces, with female backing vocals and dexterous guitar arrangements merging with horns and keyboards, with the exception of his best song on the album, the anthem Felicity, which remains one of The OJ's most iconic tracks, and is a great piece of guitar pop in the classic 80's indie-sense. Collins' songs on the other hand, which are really the main bulk of the album, are the more personal, slightly melancholic (but in a playful way) pieces.
My favourites from the album, besides the storming Felicity, include Untitled Melody, in which Collins tells the same little story of love from both the perspective of the boy and the girl ("you're so transparent, I can guess without question, you need some thing or other, to cover your expression. I'll buy you some sunspecs, from the local, hipster's store; you need me more or less... I need you more and more"), the more rousing Tender Object (with it's barrage of lyrics... Collins verbally tripping over himself as he tries to fit more words into an already bulging melody; "here I go around and round, sick inside and eyes to the ground, looking for a sign to set me free, in my chic cold misery... step we gaily on we go, heel to heel and toe to toe, lock me away, I need to unwind, did you ever hear anything so unkind, from your window?") and the aching Consolation Prize, in which Collins' finally admits defeat with the aching refrain; "I'll never be man enough for you".
Collins's lyrics, though filled with wit and imagination, are totally honest and believable, as he paints these portraits of boredom and unrequited love against a backdrop of arcades, discos and cafeterias. The album winds down with the short and sweet In A Nutshell, a song that recalls the lush melancholy of Untitled Melody and Consolation Prize, including the unbelievably bitter lyric, "I looked deep within my pocket, for the note you sent to me, to put it in a nutshell, you're a heartless mercenary". The Japanese import that I have also included two bonus tracks; James Kirk's great guitar pop song You Old Eccentric and the great up-tempo pop of Intuition Told Me (Part Two), which is a great way to round of what is, and always was, one of the greatest debut albums ever recorded.