The Oranges

Young Now! USA [Smile/Image]

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The four members of Japan's Oranges have mop-top haircuts and wear short-sleeve poly-cotton blend shirts and elephant bell-bottoms in an array of complementary and mostly primary colors: red, blue, yellow, and black, with white piping and stripes down the side. These hairdos and costumes are mentioned up front because they say as much about this lovable Japanese band as its music does. The band isn't the most original outfit ever, but you don't expect originality from a band in matching uniforms, do you? The Oranges' sound is a raved-up glam and bubblegum pop sound, influenced by Japanese GS (for "Group Sounds," a blend of traditional Japanese pop tunes and Western standards from the 1960s). It's very familiar and foreign all at once (especially if you don't speak Japanese, as the bandmembers sing exclusively in their native tongue). None of it is really too original, either: The handclaps, punchy singalong anthems (very Bay City Rollers-ish), and straightforward guitar/bass/drums don't sound much different than your average American power pop band. This album -- it was released in Japan as Young Now! but arrives in the States with "USA" tacked on the end -- starts off with an introductory "Orange Time." "Love Song" is "Strawberry Fields"-ish, minus the Mellotron, and "All OK!" has a nice guitar interlude midway through, seeming oddly out of place in a song that soon returns back where it started. It's not until you get to "White Cloud," with its Beatlesque backing harmonies (straight out of "Here, There and Everywhere"), that you start to realize these Oranges have a lot more to offer than concentrated pulp pop. "Scootering" benefits from having glam-soaked guitars and kicky drums that beat as fast as a bunny's heart rate. Speaking of bunnies, "Little Rabbit" is a sweet little song (there's nothing remarkable about it), though "Hot Chocolate" launches off with a sped-up "shave and a haircut" Bo Diddley beat that seems similar to Generation X's rockabilly-ish "King Rocker" before scattering off in various directions. "Flower" is probably the album's best track, a curious cross-section of core Apple sounds like a blend of late-era Beatles and Badfinger (imagine "Hey Jude" meets "Day After Day").

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