I do believe I'd have to rank Orange 9mm as my all-time favorite post-hardcore band. Slightly more productive than many of their peers, the NYC outfit demonstrated staples of the post-hardcore sound with greater intensity and increased diversity that left a major mark both musically and lyrically. With so many impeccable tunes, in honor of Freddy Alva's new interview with Orange 9mm frontman Chaka Malik, I figured now was as good a time as any to throw together a list of my personal favorites...
"Can't Decide," from Orange 9mm (Revelation, 1994)
The original rendition of "Can't Decide" is probably the song that made me fall in love with Orange 9mm. Re-recorded (and equally mesmerizing) a year later for Driver Not Included, the aptly rugged sheen of the EP's production is steeped in prototypical post-hardcore atmosphere—allowing the melodies of those big, open chords during the chorus to ring through just a little brighter. Without a doubt a lyrical benchmark, too:
How does this feel, to smile through our tears, and grasp wild in the darkness with no fears? Standing on the edge of our lives without a dime or a thought for a dream. Dizzy just crying to fall head over heels in love with something...
"Tightrope," from Pretend I'm Human (Ng, 1999)
Orange 9mm's final outing was a peculiarly inconsistent affair, indeed. That being said, Pretend I'm Human does boast one of their most beautifully haunting masterpieces in "Tightrope." The chilling simplicity of its repetitious piano/synth melodies backed by sparse percussion and occasionally cut with intense, reverberating guitars is gut-wrenchingly powerful, to say the least. Another darkly poetic, brutally emotional lyrical goldmine, as well:
I stand in one spot, frozen by luck. Pinnacle of feeling, I wish I was fucked up. Bent from the weight and my head's at hell's gate bend to kill wake thoughts dive into my altered states. Where nothing exists, that I think I'll miss. Where nothing exists, that I think I'll miss...
"Failure," from Tragic (Atlantic, 1996)
Written by (at the time new) bassist Taylor McLam, and easily the band's catchiest track, "Failure" was the perfect choice for one of Orange 9mm's rare music videos. The snappy bounce to the drumming, that hammering bassline, and of course its fuckin' huge chorus make this a clear and immediate standout amongst the group's catalog as a whole.
"Suspect," from Driver Not Included (East West, 1995)
Featured on a sampler or two as well as the soundtrack to Easy Rider: The Snowboard Movie, "Suspect" comes a close second to "Failure" in terms of Orange 9mm's most infectious outings (this one more somber and dissonant in tone, of course). I mean, god damn, that chorus... has the mere word "and" ever been more of a hook!?
"Sacrifice," from Driver Not Included (East West, 1995)
Driver Not Included is a pretty flawless album with loads to choose from, but "Sacrifice" in particular is just pure, seething rage put to song. The way that sick bass run drills right in for the slow burn results in one of the group's most hard-hitting and menacing compositions. Period.
Looking back on a discography that's packed with top-shelf material, I know from experience that many fans will disagree with my selections. While I personally would find it almost impossible to argue against any of the five picks above, I'm more than curious to listen in on any and all arguments to the contrary, so... feel free, as always!