By: Eric G.
Two-thirds of the overly cutesy Holiday Flyer comprise this new indie pop trio, whom you may remember from last year's March Records' Moshi Moshi compilation with the quirky “I Know You Feel The Same Way Too.” John Conley and Verna Brock share songwriting as well as vocal duties. Neither can sing very well, but that's half the fun. The music is chock full of hooks and jangling indie rock guitars. The charm wears off only when the band abandons its aggressive pop formula, which, thankfully, is not very often.
Purportedly influenced by the likes of Weezer, Joe Jackson, and The Cars, The California Oranges churn out short bursts of catchy pop with sing-songy harmonies and a strictly lo-fi aesthetic. The bass lines are busy and upbeat, filling the gap left by the emasculated guitar sound. Though, I only hear the vaguest traces of its cited influences, the power pop side definitely outweighs the Tiger Trap-style indie rock, but “Cross My Heart” wouldn't have been out of place on an anything by Rose Melberg in the early 90's. “Power pop” is probably too strong of a term for this band. To put it in perspective- Joe Jackson (on his first two records) rocks rings around The California Oranges.
Lyrically, the songs cover that Barcelona-style terrain, where nothing is very serious and obscure nostalgia rules the day: "because I know when I lose/I can turn to John Hughes/which movie will I choose/which one best suits my blues" ("John Hughes"). It's hard to find too much to complain about, though, with a band this happy-go-lucky. The whole album is over in only twenty-five minutes, so even if the vocals put you off slightly you can still enjoy the cheery, head-bobbing melodies of songs like “So Much To Do" and the retro-pop perfection of "Roller King."
The California Oranges don't mistake gratuitous musical incompetence for charm like many of their early 90's predecessors either. Instead, their lo-fi stance stems from a love for pure indie pop, and they can play their instruments. The band should have a built-in audience with its penchant for irresistible harmonies packaged in tight little snippets. Of course, the unfortunately named "twee" scene will eat this up, but fans of pop with a slightly harder edge will probably succumb too.