The Orphans of Kimono Draggin’ fame are back under a new name, bringing their trademark blend of upbeat hard rock and funk back to the table, this time with a little extra spice.
The first thing you notice as the opening track kicks in is the lush flanging synth setting a peculiar spacious element behind a bouncing bass. That floating feeling established in the opening seconds becomes crucial to the rest of the album, as interstellar themes run rampant. Once the track fills out, it explodes into a barrage of upbeat, funky instrumentation, laying the groundwork for the band’s whacky vocals to take the stage. Between the references to Sesame Street and space voyages, it’s evident that Space Orphans retain a whimsical air that stays throughout the album. There’s also a surprising deal of melody stemming from not just this opening number but the album as a whole, chiefly stemming from the upfront, overdriven guitar lines. The lead and rhythm guitars work exceptionally well together, often resulting in a dueling nature between the vocals and lead guitar.
On the third track “Mookie’s Ensemble”, the seven-minute pseudo-epic, it’s percussion that takes center stage and acts as the driving force behind the song. Right from the beginning of the track we notice these great, elongated tom rolls which do well to compliment the synthy, wet bass sound filling out the bottom of the mix. After, the song heads off to a new dimension (pun maybe intended) where a chromatic trade-off between bass and guitar leaves us with an unsettling feeling as to where Space Orphans will lead us next on this interstellar journey. We are treated to more of the same kinds of synthesized keys implemented in the opening track, this time resembling an organ, paving the way for the track to hit harder than any other point on the entire album. Through raspy vocal screams and drums perfectly augmenting the chugging guitar rhythms, the album reaches peak intensity, lasting for a good few minutes but does well to not overstay its welcome.
It’s clear Space Orphans came to have a good time, but that does by no means go to say that the songwriting suffers to any degree. The harmonies between all parts of the band are impeccable, especially prevailing on the track “Red Sky”, a track glorifying the sailor life. The way the rhythm guitar plays well with the vocal melody is no small feat, as neither part overpowers the other during the verse, allowing each part of the orchestration to fulfill its role effectively. Plus the near constant guitar fuzz just takes the album to a whole new level in terms of force, but interestingly enough it always hits the ear cleanly. This is an homage to the production value of the album and how well the guitars are able to mesh with the rest of the mix.
Overall, this album is definitely different from Kimono Draggin’s release both in terms of lyrical subject matter and what can only be described as an increase in melodious spark. The Kimono intensity is definitely still there, if not more so. This record plays less like a party record and more like a go-into-space-and-party record, which is a genre I personally find in desperate need of further exploration.