Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

Why did they bother? If ever a project was born to fail, Orlando was it. Campy vocal flounce and shameless pop bounce, and lyrics which made the Manics (say) sound like the straight-talking bluff-artists they wound up becoming. Look back across the decade and Orlando were the Pooh Sticks to Belle & Sebastian’s Def Leppard; they were so precious Gollum would have blushed; they were, oddly, one of the decade’s more extreme bands. “Pariah Pop”, ex-member Dickon Edwards called it on his homepage, more elegantly than I could – but then, he lived it. Orlando were a band who invited contempt, thrived on it in a sickly way. But this wasn’t some bunker mentality feedback-loop a la Jaz bloody Coleman, Orlando didn’t want the critics to hate them because that would somehow prove anything, they simply could not have understood any possible alternate response. The first time I heard the superb “Just For A Second” I pegged them as something exciting: a neurotic response to the clean-limbed formation vigour of the boy bands, maybe. On the inner sleeve they capitalised lyrics on a whim, just like Morrissey used to. But Orlando, as a play of their near-unbearable swingbeat track “Fatal” quickly reveals, were the very opposite of Smithsian robustness – what did not kill them made them weaker. I’ll say it again, because it wasn’t a criticism: if ever a project was born to fail, Orlando was it.

So why on Earth should you, the self-sorted, choice-happy pop-literate consumer, want to actually listen to this fey splurge as you wryly click through your Freaky Trigger? Because while I’d say that Orlando’s preposterous single can hardly be counted as great pop music (it has the ambition, but it’s too flimsy), it’s still a masterpiece of wimpy petulance. The pathetic, nothing-to-lose defiance of “Just For A Second” is cut from similar cloth to Marc Almond’s untouchable kiss-off “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” – and for all the cheap beatbox drums and casiotone strings, for all the gasping and sighing and lisping, songs like that don’t come along often enough to ignore. You’ll either like it or laugh at it: for Orlando, that was a win-win situation.