An Ode to Odious
Blue Grey Pink
Big Orange may have their origins in the small WA town of Harvey, but there’s nothing small about their rousing rock. Now based in Perth, the alternative rock outfit make songs that are never anything less than impassioned and committed. Their debut LP, An Ode to Odious, is delivered so wholeheartedly that it should bring them to the attention of a wider audience.
First the project of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Davis, Big Orange (as you’re undoubtedly wondering, the band’s name comes from one of those odd but wonderful monuments that pepper Australia’s landscape, this time the Big Orange Tower just outside Harvey) evolved into a tight four-piece: Davis (lead vocals, piano, guitar), is complemented by Tom Garvey (bass), Emma Adams (synth and percussion), and now Jamie Gallacher (drums). That they’re lifelong friends is perhaps why they sound so strong as a musical collective; Davis’s confident vocal delivery could overwhelm a lesser band backing him – but not here. Instead it’s the kind of balance that Bruce Springsteen enjoys with the E Street Band, or Tom Petty enjoyed with the Heartbreakers.
Another comparable group would be Canadian rock masters Arcade Fire, particularly on a song like the opener In The Shadows: in which a mass of heaving instrumentation unspools immediately, complete with pounding piano, thrashing riffs, and stirring vocals. Big Orange are relentlessly energetic afterwards on the album. The popping synths of The Reason lead into an anthemic journey, with Davis’ slightly-warped vocals sounding distinctly like mid-noughties indie rock.
The lyricism is darker than one might expect. “I usually write about existentialism, morality, sadness, self-loathing, misanthropy, lost love and apocalypse,” Davis said in a press release, and indeed matters of death and destiny permeate the record, never more so than on I Wanna Know. Amidst crunching rhythm and momentous tempo, he ponders, “Galaxies of emptiness/ We search for meaning in the mess/ Good things come to those who wait/ But I wouldn’t hold ya breath.” Later, he yearns to “know where life ends/ Where do we go and what happens?” These have always been big questions but perhaps they’ve never been more at the top of mind than in 2020 (“These are dangerous times,” Davis fittingly mutters on the theatrical and eerie Dangerous Times).
Big Orange’s musicality extends also to shimmering alt-pop, offering softer sonic respites within the darkness, as on the sublimely-titled Goodnight Kiss Vampire Bite and Apocketlipstick. Heavier matters dominate though. Davis is unafraid to contend with Australia’s blood-stained history on the uneasy Killer on the Land: “Don’t you know we come in peace/ But now you’re riddled with disease/ And now you need our vaccines/ And we’re gonna cut down all your trees.”
So Many Things is then personal and poignant, a frank reckoning with mental health. “I take medicine so that I can understand/ It’s all an illusion and that I’m a happy man/ My shoes are on the wrong feet/ I’m on the right side of the wrong street,” Davis sings, showcasing once again his raw and well-constructed songwriting.
An Ode to Odious is a strong matching of lyrics and instrumentation, as Davis’ existential ponderings are carried by his band’s barrelling and rollicking rhythms throughout. They ensure that, as their lead vocalist tries to find meaning in all of this earthly mess, at least it sounds like a hopeful endeavour.