After eight years in the game, the five members of San Francisco’s Oranger have seen a lot of musical trends vigorously shake the world by its ankles and then vanish. For a band that was making records when the Spice Girls were still popular, Oranger has exhibited a consistency combined with a longevity rarely found today. But the members of the perennial Noise Pop Festival favorites know their strengths and weaknesses, and they don’t change their formula to ride the waves others create. They specialize in sunny California power-pop, and they get right to it on their fourth album, New Comes and Goes.
After the double-disc expanse of 2004’s Shutdown the Sun, Oranger added a new drummer, John Hofer (Mother Hips, Kelley Stoltz), and a new guitarist, Bob Reed (Overwhelming Colorfast), for this record. But the lineup shuffle didn’t change the band’s approach. The quintet wisely plows through thirteen songs in forty minutes (a pop song doesn’t need to be much more than three minutes long) without wasting any time. The piano-aided romp of “Sukiyaki” ends after a swiftly melodic two minutes, embodying the fleeting feeling it covers with lyrics such as “I know that it could go away whenever so it goes, so it goes and goes.”
There are quieter moments, such as the whispered, despondent vocals and moody electric piano of “Crones” and the piano balladry of “Flying Machine,” which, though they are slightly less aggressive then the remainder of the album, still sound like Oranger songs. Sometimes the sound effects get a little out of hand, like the random squelches that fill space on the otherwise airtight “Garden Party for the Murder Pride.” But these moments are minor and only distract slightly. The title track’s jerky, singalong stomp is enough to make up for any such indiscretions.
Mike Drake’s quiet voice could occasionally use some multi-tracking to really make the choruses soar, but maybe that’s a little too newfangled for this old-fashioned band. After touring with some of the greats, including Pavement and Elliott Smith, Oranger has seen enough to know what works and what doesn’t and why. The members know there’s no sense trying to do anything other than what their band was built for because it’ll just sound contrived and it’ll fail to stand out much. A straightforward power-pop record may not be an extraordinary commodity anymore, but as a document of a band forging an identity and enjoying the hell out of itself in the process, New Comes and Goes will do just fine.