Oriental Love Ring first formed in Honolulu in 1988, and the only recording of theirs I possessed was a single track from a cassette compilation titled No Place to Play. For all I knew, it was the only recording by the band that existed. But that song, “Damage”, was so damn good, it made me a fan.
Too bad I was still too young to see them play live. By the time I had that independence — more commonly known as “college” — the band had already split up.
I no longer have a cassette player, but the Hawaii Punk Museum made No Place to Play available online. On a lark, I decided to search the web for Oriental Love Ring and discovered the band had reunited and released an album of new songs in 2010.
“Damage” hinted at what the band could achieve, and In This World fully realizes it.
There’s not a single dead spot on the album. Guitarist Beano Shots wrote or co-wrote the lion’s share of the tracks, and his melodic gift hasn’t dimmed since his days in the Squids.
Peter Bond sounds perennially youthful with his soaring tenor, and he and Shots weave their guitar riffs beautifully on such tracks as “Prayers to an Empty Sky”, “Disconnected Girl” and the title track.
Not surprisingly, Bond’s contributions to the album, “I Know You Know”, “Take Me to the Moon” and “Tonight”, have the bite of his later band, Spiny Norman.
Original drummer Bryan Brudell used electric drums on “Damage”, forever dating the song (in a good way, as far as I’m concerned.) Larry Lieberman opts for a more organic sound, and he’s in lock step with bassist Chad Ikezawa.
In This World arrives 20 years after Oriental Love Ring first split up. The band says they’re doing this out of fun, and it sure does come across in the finished product.
This album is also something of a weird wish fulfillment for me. Oriental Love Ring were playing at Wave Waikiki at a time when I was still learning how to drive. “Damage” spurred my imagination and made me wonder about all the stuff we didn’t hear. As it turns out, some pretty damn good music.