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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Orange Range

Orange Range

On paper, Orange Range sound like a shit sundae. To demonstrate why this is so, let's gather up the following list of unappetizing musical ingredients

1) Plodding bass-driven alt-metal riffage
2) Rapping
3) Sentimentality
4) A tendency to steal from influences in a way that screams less mashup than 'come on, get some taste.'

and then stir them into a glutinous mixture of Pro Tools-produced sludge. A real unit-shifter, no? Although J-music isn't exactly known for its restraint and ironic detachment, a Japanese Linkin Park is no one's idea of a good time. WTF are you talking about, Justin? you ask. Why not just end the review now?

It gets worse.

Orange RangeAre you ready?

They covered the Locomotion.

And they have a b-side about soy sauce whose refrain is 'SOY! SOY! SOY! SOY!' Didn't this used to be a joke on everything2.com? Wasn't the band paying attention?

I'm sorry for giving Orange Range grief. But I needed to get it out of the way before going on with the review. I genuinely like their music, albeit in a 'lock the door and make sure no one else is around' way. We here at The Great Swifty Speaketh! believe in full disclosure, and if you're going to put on a disc and expect anything other than a horribly Engrish-mangled pop-punk version of the 'locolotion', well...don't say we didn't warn you.

Formed in Okinawa, OR's stated modus operandi was, according to Wikipedia, to "mix "Hip-hop" and "Rock" style music, as can be heard by the vocals and the instrumentals. Their style is also made up of many different cultures and musical styles from around the world. This is attributed to their hometown being Okinawa, a well known station for American military bases and thus cultures and different styles often blend."

Of course, for someone like me 'different styles often blend' means you come out with something truly original and ageneric like Mr. Bungle (second time I've mentioned them recently) or the Boredoms (also Japanese: check them out if you've never heard of them); not something that sounds like it would have been popular on Ozzfest circa 1999.

The defining moment of Orange Range's career was their single 'Hana', contributed to score the film 'Ima ai ni yukimasu' or for English-speakers, 'Be With You Now.' In the film, a dead woman is resurrected and meets her husband and young son (read: little kid of the Ke Huy Quan variety), but her memory is gone, so she has to learn to love them again during her allotted time on Earth. Now, just to recap: mainstream Asian cinema in general has a tendency to be rather...um...unguarded when it comes to emotion, and 'Be With You Now' is no exception: the over-the-top strings soundtrack has already reared its head before the titles even comes up, and by the time the father and son have returned to the woods to escort the mother off (they're never going to see her again! Or are they?) the drama has reached total, sleeve-staining proportions. I watched this movie with my girlfriend the day before she returned to Tokyo for six months, and I still remember her hot, gloppy tears soaking my shirt as the film cut forward ten years to show some serious father-son bonding just before the fade to black unleashed Miyamori Ryo's tepid flow:

Hanabira no youni chiriyuku naka de
Yume mitai ni
kimi ni deaeta kiseki
Kenka shite
Ironna kabe futari de norikoete
Umare kawatte mo
anata no soba de
hana ni narou

The words seared into my mind. It was ridiculous. Heart-rending. Almost...Korean in its intensity.

Hana music video

"PLAY SONG AGAIN!" my girlfriend demanded, petulantly rewinding to the credits. You can't buy that kind of emo - unless you have a really big recording contract with Sony and a tendency to alternate Westlife's greatest hits with Mr. Children in the disc-changer. Don't let it happen to you, reader. The saccharine pull of Japanese cinema and turgid power balladry can reduce even the most firmly-constitutioned souls to maudlin excess. The only way to be safe is to limit yourself to Miike Takashi and Thee Michelle Gun Elephant.

Orange Range will probably never top 'Hana'; nor would I have them do so. The nation seems to have concurred; while they continue to make the Oricon charts with their singles, I doubt they'll be able to maintain the high of their third release, 'Natural', for long. They're too dependent on tie-ins; apart from the film, their tracks have also been used as anime opening themes ('Shanghai Honey', 'Viva Rock' for Naruto, etc.), and they sound like it: generically upbeat and depthless. They have about three songs: the 'Hana' derivative rap-ballad; the 'barnstormer' Korn-lite rocker, and the 'sunny' Okinawan pop-punk-rock. Over the course of their (to date) two albums, these three have been alternated in sequence and sometimes cross-pollinated, with generally underwhelming results. Unlike Puffy, whose shameless stealing make you exclaim 'fuck yeah', putting on the newest Orange Range single usually provokes responses of 'Oh my God...they're not trying to do a MEXICAN song...are they!?' ('Onegai Senorita' - IT'S REAL. FEAR.)