Last month I posted a track from the forgotten 80s Manchester band the Fates, a combo led by Una Baines—a founding member of both the Fall and Blue Orchids. It doesn’t take much for the music of the Blue Orchids, which Baines and Bramah formed in 1979, to get lodged in my brain, so writing about and listening to the Fates naturally led me to pull out The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain), the brilliant 1982 debut by Blue Orchids. The group definitely carried forth some of the Fall’s postpunk sound, but with a far more melodic, melancholy slant and an audible connection to the strum-happy music of the Velvet Underground. (The Blue Orchids would go on to work as the European touring band for Nico for several years).
The album’s raucous, upbeat material, like the garagey “The Flood” and the halting “The House That Faded Out,” is pretty hard to resist, but I’ve always been most drawn to the group’s gorgeous ballads—songs that transmit sadness, beauty, and a lack of sentimentality. I was leaning toward the woozy “A Year With No Head,” a song I was introduced to via a cover by the wonderful New York band Fish & Roses, but thanks to some encouragement from my wife I’ve chosen “Bad Education,” a song that sounds utterly contemporary more than three decades later. Try to resist it.