The Orchids

Who Needs Tomorrow... A 30 Year Retrospective

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The Orchids were one of the pillars of legendary indie pop label Sarah Records in the late '80s and early '90s, making some of the most interesting and affecting records that Sarah released. Though they conked out right as the label did, after some time apart they regrouped and managed to keep making wonderful albums, much like one of their inspirations, the Go-Betweens, did. Like that band, the Orchids combined breathlessly emotional vocals, resonant melodies played with tenderness and imagination, and songs that were tiny anthems made for people with overflowing hearts. Who Needs Tomorrow... is a double-disc set that gathers up highlights from the singles, EPs, and albums on one disc with demos, radio sessions, and rarities on the other. The first disc begins with 1987's "Apologies" from their debut EP on Sarah and ends with a track from their 2014 album, Beatitude #9. In between these is a solid selection of songs from both incarnations of the Orchids, with a focus on their earlier work. While the newer tracks are different since one must account for new recording technology and a more modern perspective, the songs are remarkably strong and their indie pop hearts are still true. The aching "Another Saturday Night" is just as good as anything from their early days, for example. The second disc is the true treasure trove for Orchids fans. It kicks off with "From This Day," their track from the 1986 Sha La La flexi-disc they shared with the Sea Urchins; next uncovers some rare early demos and radio sessions; then jumps forward with some compilation tracks, single B-sides, and demos. The true gems are from the band's early days: the acoustic versions of "It's Only Obvious" and "Welcome to My Curious Heart" are shatteringly pretty and fragile; the early take on "A Place Called Home" from Lyceum (here titled "Whitley Bay") is lovely; and the songs that never made it out of the demo stage are just as good as many that did. The 1989 track "And When I Wake Up" sounds like it could have been a hit single; it's hard to fathom why they never recorded it properly. Same with the big sophisti-pop ballad "This Patience Is Mine." The selection of tracks collected from their second incarnation is not quite as revelatory, though it is a fine batch of songs. Their version of the Go-Betweens' "Magic in Here" is a ragged delight and their mix of demos and B-sides shows that the band is still firing on all its creative cylinders. Topping it off is a new recording of their classic "Underneath the Window, Underneath the Sink," which replaces the awkward rush of youth with the relaxed maturity of age and experience, and doesn't lose much in the translation. It also proves that Who Needs Tomorrow... isn't just a postscript for an amazing pop band or a collection of past glories trapped in amber; it's a work in progress too.

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