The Orwells – The Orwells
Who remembers The Orwells? You know, the Chicago DIY framers who looked like they were gonna take the garage genre and run with it? It’s hard to remember what even happened to them considering this racquetball game of social paradigm hell we’re stuck existing in. It would appear they got caught in the #MeToo typhoon that, just like any natural disaster, wiped out some good people and some bad people with complete amorality. Unfortunately for The Orwells, they call one of the bluest cities on earth home. Everyone was brave enough to take to Twitter and yell at their phone until The Metro cancelled their upcoming shows. Every band, venue, and label completely left them hung out to dry. Even the groups they had fathered into the scene completely turned against them just so no one would turn the lamp on themselves. All of this rage came when some allegations (that must’ve not been worth going to the authorities over) were incoherently patched together by anonymous people on the internet. People went as far as to go through their lyrics and point out things they thought to be oppressive and harmful. Trying to censor speech you don’t like is an underlying characteristic of fascism. Don’t be a fascist. Listen to the new Orwells album!
Everyone, including me, thought the events of last year spelled the end for The Orwells. Now a year later, band leader Mario Cuomo self-releases this new, long-lost, or final Orwells album: self-titled with nothing of a cover save a simple black square border. The mystery surrounding the album is very good for it. It poses more questions than answers.
This album is a nice new look at a band who’s had some time to look at themselves as individuals and as a unit. There’s a lot smoother finish to this batch of tracks, with tighter and more finite drums and a clearer bass. They have taken the leap into the sleeker side of their genre like The Strokes did with their last few releases and Cage the Elephant with Social Cues. It’s an Orwellian disco of sorts. They’ve added keys for the first time in their discography, and the rest of the instrumentation seems to sprout from the addition without giving it too much of the focus.
I did notice that with the addition of synths came the elimination of those guitar hooks and kickers that used to conduct Orwells songs. Although it may be at fault for the latter half of the middle dragging, I accept this decision and believe it’s for good reason. They found a way to rely more on the overall message of the songs without it being a vocal-centric album. By adding this whole new sense of melody, they were able to create some surprisingly beautiful passages. Even if they only last for a moment, there are some very enriching pieces here previously uncharacteristic of The Orwells. This nice and full sound, very calming and content, is frequently completed with these new pleasant and sunny vocal melodies that serve as bridges and outros. They kind of touched on this sound with their last album, Terrible Human Beings, but it wasn’t as developed and concentrated as it is now. They still need to develop it a little more for the listeners’ sake, but the sound I have described is captured best with the closer, “Parade of Legs,” an utterly euphoric song that marks the potential end of their discography with a bittersweet lament.
Although there is much anew with this release, you will still find that this is indeed an Orwells album. The attitude in Cuomo’s vocals may have changed, but the phrasing and word choice is still in the vein of the other works. Take “The Boxer” for instance. With its howling guitars and seamless flow between verses and choruses, it fits right in with the top songs from the last album. They also go a choice few dips back into the garage outlet, like in the last few measures of “Mean Motherfucker” where the swelling guitars trade off under the pursuing drums and bass.
What I like most about this album is its honesty. It’s one of the most self-aware albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s is a very genuine look at their situation and a venture into the possible outcomes it presents. It admits the roles of ego and vice in the faults of a couple of rock stars who are just kids at the end of the day. They take the higher ground with this release, showing a real sense of maturity in their music as well as their personal lives. They took this scrutiny as an opportunity to shape up a little bit, even though they were never the monsters we made them out to be in the first place. In summation, The Orwells made a good first move by quietly releasing an album without showing their face on stage. Letting the rubberneckers think what they will and carrying on will always prove truer to oneself.