For those unfamiliar with the group, The Orion Experience are a pop rock band founded by Orion Simprini and Linda Horwatt (who also goes by Linda XO). The group (along when then-bandmates Erik Paparazzi, Marcus Farrar and Kareem Lamar) have perfected a delectable concoction of fizzy pop and raucous indie rock over the years, culminating in three full-length albums and two EPs. Their debut, Cosmicandy, was released in 2006, but – after a surge in online popularity and increasing demand, found itself given the reissue treatment earlier this year, in a wide variety of formats, including, for the first time, vinyl and cassette.
I’ve loved this album for a long time now, and always been disheartened in the past to find it unavailable physically. At long last, I have it in my hands (CD and vinyl because I’m a filthy materialist) and thought it was high time I offered up my humble opinions.
Comiscandy opens with ‘The Queen of White Lies’, a bombastic fusion of sickly-sweet pop and indie rock, in the ultimate ode to red-flag partners and those ones that just aren’t good for you. The track, similarly, couldn’t be any more addictive, and serves as the perfect opening to the album. Simprini and Horwatt show that, together, they’re an unstoppable force in pop.
Next comes, to many, the band’s signature, ‘The Cult of Dionysus’. It’s a tribute to ‘orgiastic dances’ and polyamory; another stomping, bubblegum-tinted rocker, as the duo give their best sales pitch for a radical society based on hedonism and amusement. It’s hard not to want to lay down in a bed of wildflowers and pray to marble statues by the first bar of the chorus. Another solid gem.
‘Obsessed With You’ is a real highlight on a record full of them. The lines between devout partner and lurching stalker blur in this simple pop number, ‘I know your middle name/ I got a lock of your hair…’. ‘I Love the Stars’ is possibly the bubbliest moment yet, in an acoustic-driven ballad with some of the best harmonies on the album – packing the closest the band ever get to Beatles territory. It’s a track I always forget hides on this record, and always a pleasant surprise.
The indie rock is in full force as Simprini and Horwatt both unearth their love for the titular character in pumping ‘Adrianne’. Is it an ode to trans rights? Are the pair enamoured with androgyny? ‘But I never had a lover make me question Mother Nature’s plan’ gives us no answers, but either way it’s a more-than-worthy closer to side one, and remains one of the best on Cosmicandy.
Side two opens with the bleakest track yet – ‘No, don’t think I’ll get out of bed today/ ‘Cause the sky is a permanent shade of grey’. ‘No Love In February’ is a testament to the group’s less playful side, but still rocks when it needs to, with one of the best choruses yet.
The contagious, poppy hooks, however, keep on coming in the sexiest stop of this tour. ‘You’re like sexy dynamite/ You cause explosions inside me every night’. Okay, it’s not subtle, but it’s also not just about the napalm-fueled ecstasy of the orgasm. It’s about that kind of love where you’re just intoxicated with someone, craving them every which way. And on every front, it delivers.
‘Your New Boyfriend’ is the closest the album comes to generic indie, but once again puts into words the agony of the soul. As Orion details the anguish of seeing a lost loved one with someone new, there are glittering choruses and shimmering riffs galore.
It’s worth noting that, much as The Orion Experience write songs about teenage love, lust and Olympian gods, Cosmicandy does a good job at sticking a middle finger up at the authority figures of today. If ‘The Cult of Dionysus’ is a tongue-in-cheek rejection of the real world, then ‘We Are the Ones’ is a powder keg beneath the Houses of Parliament. ‘We are the ones who believe in the Un-American way/ We are the ones that are gonna run the world one day’. It’s tough not to share in the sentiment. Oh, and it’s also just a catchy song.
As if to emphasise the point, Cosmicandy ends on its starkest note, with ‘Blood & Money’, an urgent wake-up call to the world. ‘Welcome to the dawning of a dark, dark age/ Where deception and dishonesty is all the rage’. If the lyrics were the only thing going for the ultimate track, it would reek of virtue signaling and worn-out cliché. As it happens, it’s one of the most addictive songs on the album; serving as the perfect three-minute ‘fuck you’ to those in charge of the world. ‘So, he hides behind a bible and he hides behind a flag/ And he hides behind your brother in a body bag’. Damn.
The Orion Experience’s Cosmicandy is one of the tightest, most consistent albums of (relatively) recent history. For a band’s debut, it’s mighty impressive, with tracks touching on sex and love to anti-capitalism and war. There are desolate landscapes and dazzling oases of endless sensation. And there are also ten tracks that all stand up to repeat listening. I’ve gone back to this album many times, and I could not be happier to finally own it on a physical format. It’s a stunning album, visually and sonically, and whether you’re into the earworm pop and glitz, or like a bit of bite in your music, Cosmicandy remains a taste of exactly what you need.