A Sweet and Zesty Return: Black Grape’s “Orange Head”

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Black Grape is back with their first album in six years, “Orange Head,” and it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of Manchester’s music scene. This release, via DGAFF Recordings, encapsulates the swagger, fun, and cryptic humour that Manchester has long been known for. The city that once offered a distinct alternative to London’s urban life seems to have left its indelible mark on the band, and it shines through in their music.

Shaun Ryder and Paul Leveridge, aka Kermit, both hail from Manchester’s edgy-but-cool neighbourhoods, with Shaun from Salford and Kermit from Moss Side. The city’s vibrant and multi-ethnic history has clearly influenced their creative journeys, and this album is a testament to their relentless pursuit of their musical aspirations.

“Orange Head” is the work of two restless artists who never adhered to traditional artistic paths but instead relied on their street smarts and raw musical talent. The punk ethos that promised every scally they could have it all left a lasting mark, and Black Grape embodies that spirit in their own unique way.

Black Grape has rightfully earned its place as one of the most innovative and iconic bands of the past quarter-century. Their debut album, “It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah,” shot to No.1 in the UK charts in 1995, accompanied by four Top 10 singles. The follow-up, “Stupid Stupid Stupid,” achieved Gold status in 1997, cementing their place in music history.

After nearly two decades since their last album, “Pop Voodoo” in 2017, Black Grape continues to surprise and impress. Shaun Ryder’s wordplay and lyrical prowess are as sharp as ever, and “Orange Head” has received critical acclaim for its creative and fearless approach.

Shaun Ryder’s journey, from the chaos of his youth to becoming a British National Treasure, is well-documented. He has ventured into various realms, from music and literature to reality TV and UFO investigations. His evolution into a clean-living family man is the latest chapter in his colourful life. The mention of his contribution to the Gorillaz’s hit single “Dare” in 2005 reminds us of his enduring relevance in the music world.

“Orange Head” retains the grimly cosmic essence of Black Grape’s unique musical identity. The album seamlessly melds rock, hip-hop, acid house, psychedelic pop, and reggae with Ryder’s distinctive lyrical style, delivered in his trademark shyster’s bark.

In conclusion, “Orange Head” is a Manchester marvel that continues Black Grape’s legacy as a pioneering force in British music. It’s a powerful reminder of the resilience and creativity that emerged from the streets of Manchester, and it cements Black Grape’s place as one of the most influential bands in the last few decades. This album is a must-listen for fans and newcomers alike, offering a thrilling journey through the sonic landscape of this iconic band.

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