The album's release came at the end of a relatively successful year for the group, which had also seen the release of an "accessible" album, The Frenz Experiment, and a handful of singles in the UK charts. However there was internal strife within the band; Smith was increasingly dependent on alcohol and speed, and his marriage to Fall lead guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Brix Smith was coming to an end. Although she wrote many of the most acclaimed songs on the album, including "Overture from 'I Am Curious Oranj'", "Van Plague?" and "Bad News Girl", she was excluded from the writing and publishing credits.
Considered one of The Fall's strongest, if not cohesive, albums, I Am Kurious Oranj was intended as the soundtrack for the ballet I Am Curious, Orange, a collaboration with the dancer Michael Clark. The music was mostly pre-written by Brix Smith and bassist Steve Hanley. A live version was recorded during an Edinburgh Festival performance of the ballet, and issued in 2000 as I Am as Pure as Oranj.
I Am Kurious Oranj was intended as the soundtrack for the ballet I Am Curious, Orange, produced by contemporary dance group Michael Clark & Company, and loosely based on the 300th anniversary of William of Orange's ascension to the English throne. The album combines studio recordings with tracks recorded live during performances in Edinburgh in June 1988.
The opening track "New Big Prinz" (as well as its alternative version, "Big New Priest") is based on "Hip Priest" from the group's 1982 album Hex Enduction Hour; the original track was also used in the ballet as a backing tape. "Jerusalem" is an adaptation of William Blake's hymn using Hubert Parry's original music (although Parry does not appear in the credits). "Last Nacht" is a remix of "Bremen Nacht" from the group's poorly received previous album, The Frenz Experiment.
"Dead Beat Descendant" was written for the ballet and performed live, but did not make the album. It was later re-recorded and released as a track on the Seminal Live compilation.
I Am Kurious Oranj was critically well received at the time. NME wrote "[The Fall have] retained the power to surprise, to provoke and occasionally outrage that only The Smiths could pretend to possess in the '80s." A later review of the album by AllMusic, however, is more indifferent, opining, "As a cohesive Fall album it fails [...] I Am Kurious Oranj would have been more interesting to see than hear."
As with other Fall albums released through Beggars Banquet Records, I Am Kurious Oranj featured a different track listing across the various formats on which it was originally released. In addition to extra tracks "Guide Me Soft" and "Big New Priest", the UK CD featured several alternative and extended versions of songs (tracks 3, 5, 7, 8 and 12). In 2013, Beggars Banquet remastered and reissued the album on CD as a part of the 5 Albums box set; the new edition used the CD mixes re-ordered according to the vinyl track order with alternate vinyl mixes added as bonus tracks.