This Is Orange Drink
“Meet me again, for the first time.”
These are the words are attached to This Is Orange Drink, the fifth album from Drew Prusko under the Orange Drink moniker that he’s maintain for two decades ever since childhood. Two decades, particularly the two decades bookended by youth and your thirties, is a long time for growth and coming to terms with yourself, both artistically and personally. Prusko notes in the zine accompanying this cassette that Orange Drink “was never really meant to be a one-man band”, that he “struggled with depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation”, and that he “was afraid to share [his] thoughts and ideas” before this album. As such, This Is Orange Drink is a coming-out party of sorts: one that acknowledges, accepts, and utilizes the past while looking forward towards a future of personal liberation. It does not shed baggage: it carries it to build emotional muscle. It is not happy, but it is hopeful. Prusko’s ideas are scattered and vaguely presented, yet focused and clearly understood. It’s intimate and inviting, bold and experimental. In a little over 50 minutes, This Is Orange Drink paints the portrait of a man with broad strokes and a deluxe kit of paints. As I look on, I feel as though I’ve known him my entire life.
“In My Mind” opens the album with Prusko’s half-lamentations/half-laughs about how his life has turned out, written as a list of personal insecurities: “I thought I wouldn’t weigh as much as I do”, “I should’ve thrown away all the junk in the house”, etc. Counterbalancing its brightly jangling guitar melody is an OP-1 synth looped sample touched by the hand of industrial with its grind and smack. Prusko’s vocals here and on many of This Is Orange Drink‘s more rock-oriented tracks come across as a blend of two of the most prominent music movements of the nineties: the weariness of grunge fused with the gentle soar of Britpop. Every note that emerges sounds like a mini pushback, fighting an imminent slump with conscious optimism. As ‘all over the place’ as this might seem written out, it plays simply, clearly, and directly. Nothing Orange Drink ever does ever feels forced: in fact, This Is Orange Drink is, more often than not, hypnotic, preferring that you sink into the cozy patterns it lays out rather than be startled by them.
“That, I Don’t Know” will immediately draw comparison to Nirvana as the record’s raw downbeat anthem on the struggle of self-acceptance. It grows quite massive in sound towards its end, erupting with loud, gritty frustration and featuring tambourine on the choruses, giving the song a feel like it could shake apart and tumble down at the slightest proclivity to disrupt the fragile balance Prusko has established. However, it’s the sequence of the next three tracks is what really establishes Orange Drink as someone entirely discontent to settle into a sound.
The string of “All These Things in Time”, “Yung Grandpa”, and “Silverfox City” sees Prusko hop from trip folktronica existential dread, to novelty drone rap about being a step-grandfather, to a retro synth instrumental inspired by the idea of being picked up by a hot older man in a limo. It is absurd that this stretch works, that it is not wildly jarring. Conversely, they bleed into each other like colors on a canvas. Each track is compelling in its own way, from “All These Things in Time” capturing the transient nature of life and the moments that make it up with its stretched composition and gradual fade, desperate to extend and dwell on those moments, to “Yung Grandpa”‘s place as a charming and goofy breather that still experiments with its chanted beat that calls forward to “Help Me; Leave Me Alone”, to “Silverfox City”, an addictive little earworm and the first track where Prusko allows the instrumental to stand on its own, while also calling back to 2017 single “Bear Trap”.
These small internal references do a lot to tie together This Is Orange Drink into one cohesive package. MC Yung Grandpa reemerges on “Clap Back”, a more serious PSA style rap on the indoctrination of hate passed on in families throughout the generations. The Yung Grandpa tracks could be argued to be filler, but at the same time, they could be argued as an example of “the art of filler”: providing levity, a shift in tone, and a character otherwise lacking. You take out “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner” from Let It Be and you have a very different and less developed voice on display: same goes here. Closer “That’s Fine” implements a vocal sample from “If You Want To, That’s Fine”, a tragic song centered around the feeling of abandonment, and flips it on its head into an upbeat dance club track.
There are tons of old samples tying the album to Prusko’s life outside of music as well: “Long Gone” – John, 15 years ago; “I Stopped Caring Years Ago” – Michael and Christie, 1997 and Mr. Kidd, Prusko’s 10th English teacher; “Sleeve of a Tweed Jacket” – Michael and Christie again. I wouldn’t know the names and dates without the zine, but the role these people play in Prusko’s life is evident on the recordings alone. They make This Is Orange Drink feel even more like a life’s work in the most literal of senses.
We’ve yet to even touch upon “Let It Ring”. Described as a “horror movie disguised as a pretty folk/country song”, Prusko alludes to the horror being literal, but can just as easily be read figuratively: “The daylight is fading into nothing / We’re going outside, the wall’s closing in / I wish you could stay / And see this with pride / There’s no greater pain / Than being alive”. The track itself is a beautiful pop song, something that could’ve easily dominated college radio in the mid to late eighties, and the contrast between its beauty and its dark subject matter is a perfect example of why this album is incredible.
We hear good happy songs, we hear good sad songs, we hear good angry songs, so on and so forth. The true Holy Grail of the artist is to capture something more complex, something more human. We don’t feel one thing at once, we don’t think about one thing at once, events from 20 years ago led to where you are right now. Drew Prusko understands this. Drew Prusko has captured this. This Is Orange Drink. It’s everything I want from music, and it’s a masterpiece.
Glad to meet you, Orange Drink.
Favorite tracks: All of them, but especially “That, I Don’t Know”, “All These Things in Time”, “I Stopped Caring Years Ago”, “Let It Ring”
You can buy Orange Drink’s This Is Orange Drink on cassette/CD/digital here via Hemlock Records.