I may have discovered Orson by accident at first, but it was no accident that their second album came to my attention. Having been impressed by their debut single "No Tomorrow" and then being disappointed that the rest of the album didn't match up to it, I wasn't planning on getting "Culture Vultures". That was until I discovered that the first two singles from it were pretty good and figured that maybe the album would be worth a look as I knew it had at least twice as many decent tracks as the last one.
The first of these tracks is "Radio", which is an up-tempo, upbeat heavy pop track. The early verses are a little deceptive, being a little slower than the bouncy intro would have you believe, but it picks up later on. It's got quite a driving beat, especially over the chorus, which makes it perfect running music. It's not as good as "No Tomorrow" from the first album, perhaps resembling "Bright Idea" a little more closely, but being a far better song.
"Ain't No Party" was the first song I heard from the album and it immediately hooked me. Like "No Tomorrow", it's a bouncy, up-tempo heavy pop tune with a great sing-along chorus and a really upbeat feel. It's got a warm, summery vibe that I would usually associate with a band like the Thrills and it's almost guaranteed to get your feet moving.
Some of the bounce drops from the sound "Broken Watch", although it's a favourite of mine purely for the lyric "My jokes ain't funny no more / They weren't that funny before", which seems to describe me so well. There's a slightly slower tempo to this track, but it still retains a pop sound with a slight indie twist and the driving drumbeat does still make it perfect walking or running music.
For some reason, "The Contortionist" is a track I've never warmed to. There's no real reason for this, as it's got all the ingredients that make up most Orson songs. It's got a driving guitar riff, under pinning a mid-tempo indie-pop song. It's not quite as upbeat as the earlier tracks and the lyrics, particularly in the chorus don't seem to make a whole lot of sense, so it may be these factors that have put me off the song, but it's not really all that bad.
There's a much cleaner guitar sound to the opening of "Gorgeous", which gives it more of a heavy pop feel and reminds me a little of something like the Killers. It doesn't quite have the same upbeat nature of their better tracks, though and the chorus just seems a little predictable lyrically. Again, it's a largely inoffensive track compared with the rest of the album, although once again the upbeat guitar riff and up-tempo beat does make it good for a mp3 player when you're running.
"Debbie's Gone" is another one I've never quite got around to liking. It's at a slightly slower tempo, but the driving riff in the chorus is similar to much of the album so far. The slower tempo makes it more of a song for walking to, rather than running, but it has all the indie-pop elements of the album this far and it's not a bad track, just not one of my favourites.
Next up is the slowest track on the album so far, although "Where You Are" isn't really slow paced enough to be considered a ballad. Once again, there's a fairly driving drum beat through the song, which makes it pretty decent walking music, but there's not a lot else to recommend the track. It's just slightly mid-tempo indie-pop and seems to pass by without having much of an impact.
Fortunately, next up is my favourite track on the album. "Little Miss Lost & Found" has a funky bass line running through it and a really upbeat, up tempo feel that I love. The chorus picks things up even further and it's a wonderful heavy-pop track that, whilst it may not have the catchy hook of "No Tomorrow", is certainly very pleasing to the ear. This is a song that never fails to put a bounce in my step when it comes on my music player, even when I'm sitting down.
There's quite a funky little bass riff to "Northern Girl" as well, although it's got a much more down tempo feel. Again, despite the standard indie-pop feel to the track, it's not one of my favourites, as Orson's sound doesn't seem to work quite so well on the slightly slower tracks. They're a decent enough group, but they have a jaunty, summer feel that works better when the pace is higher.
Unfortunately, the album ends with two of my least favourite tracks on the album. Indeed, playing in order, I usually just take the CD off after "Little Miss Lost & Found". That said, there is a fun intro to "Cool Cops", with the drum beat on one track and the guitar in the other, which confuses me when I put my headphones in the wrong way around. Apart from that, there's nothing to recommend the track. It's another mid-tempo indie-pop song, which isn't saved by the interesting and sometimes quite funky guitar riff. I think it's the lyrics to this one that really put me off it, with lines like "Cool Cops are always watching every step / And they even hate Johnny Depp" not seeming to relate to anything at all.
There's a decent driving riff to "Everybody!" which should appeal to me, but the song as a whole doesn't. It's a bouncy, light indie-pop song which I tend to like until it gets to the chorus, which seems horribly predictable and takes a slightly darker twist that doesn't fit with the verses at all. It feels as if Orson have taken a verse from one song and a chorus from another and have failed to weld them together properly, so it just comes out as a bit of a mess. This is a pity, as with a better chorus, this could have been a great song.
Much like their debut "Bright Idea", "Culture Vultures" flatters to deceive, with the lead singles being so much better than the rest of the album. Admittedly, this is a much better album than their debut, but that album didn't really constitute much competition for that title. What's here is nicely crafted indie-pop with a couple of personal highlights, but this isn't an album that could be considered special on its own. Strangely, Orson's lead singer Jason Pebworth wrote a couple of tracks for the latest Sugababes album which, although they wouldn't have suited the band's sound, were far superior to anything here.
Although the overall quality of the album is greater than their debut, listening here I can't help but feel that they peaked with their debut single and haven't been able to live up to it. "Culture Vultures" is 11 tracks and 41 minutes of nothing particularly special and unless you can catch it for a penny on eBay or 98 pence on the Amazon Marketplace, you're better off just downloading the highlights and leaving the album as a whole well alone.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Ain't No Party
3 Broken Watch
4 The Contortionist
6 Debbie's Gone
7 Where You Are
8 Little Miss Lost & Found
9 Northern Girl
10 Cool Cops