October 26, 2000

I Have Seen the Future …

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Take one look at Orgy, and you know they were born to be rock stars. Not the too-clever, anti-star, rock stars of the ’90s either, but a throwback to the ’80s when bands like Depeche Mode and New Order ruled MTV; “painted in chrome Max Factor,” sings frontman Jay Gordon. The makeup, the hair, and the dress–not to mention the attitude–are all a tribute to rock’s New Wave and glam past. This album is a backlash against the proliferation of decidedly hip, and decidedly uniform, rap/metal bands of the last few years.

One listen to their latest release, Vapor Transmission, and you’ll know that their cover of “Blue Monday” was no fluke, but rather the product of genuine inspiration. It was too good not to be. Mixing guitar glitter with the dark synth pop of the ’80s, Orgy not only looks the part– they play the part, too.

But in this era of converging musical tastes, has Orgy’s brand of glam-rock become a creative anachronism? Sure, they sing about the future, about the dangers of technology, and about government surveillance, but they’re still stuck in the past. They can’t have it both ways. A prospective look at the future through retrospective lens is bound to distort itself sooner or later.

And on Vapor Transmission, it’s sooner rather than later. Melodies are few and far between, strangled by droning beats and saw-tooth guitar before they’re even conceived. The Marilyn Manson-esque “Opticon” is the closest the band comes to a radio-ready single. “Opticon is here to lead us/Opticon is in control,” sings Gordon, a sure reference to something smartly futuristic. The album’s first single, “Fiction (Dreams In Digital)” is another sterile attempt to purvey the barren future: “She dreams in digital/ Cause it’s better than nothing/ Now that control is gone it seems unreal.” “Eva,” a stripped-down tribute to producer Josh Abraham’s late mom, is the closest the band comes to the hook-driven “Stitches” off their ’98 debut.

Now four years after Radiohead released OK Computer, the quintessential millennial album, Orgy seems a poor candidate to lead rock into the twenty-first century. But then again, they never professed to be at the vanguard of the musical movement, only ahead of their time.

Archived article by Michael Tivin