Album Review: The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings

Collection of dark, mutilated rock on matured third album from rowdy Chicago band The Orwells

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Since making their debut in 2012 with album Remember When, Chicago based five-piece The Orwells have made a name for themselves amongst young people especially, with their careless, childlike attitude to the songs in which they create. Since they started, they’ve advocated the importance of fun within music – a theme which has helped make them one of the liveliest and most entertaining live bands in the world. Their third album, Terrible Human Being, shows the band moving on from juvenile beginnings towards a more matured sound, embracing influences from The Strokes and especially Pixies, whom the band declared their admiration in such a way they named a track from the album after lead singer Frank Black.

First track Body in the Bayou is reminiscent of early Iggy Pop, with the swagger of Mario Cuomo’s spouting lyrics the band declare mean nothing to them but that they sounded good. The distortion of guitars from the first ten seconds, sets up the band’s contrast to Pixies and with additional backing vocals in the chorus, it’s very hard not to see how large the impact that Pixies had on the Chicago band.

Guitar distortion is a key element throughout the album. Creatures is a tripped out, slowed down track, pushing human imperfection and desperation to the max. Lyrics “Hopeless and homeless / Selling what they stole” details the downfall for people in this mellow and distorted track, whereas Fry is completely on the other side of the spectrum with it’s sharp and straight forward nature making it irresistible to bounce or dance to throughout the two minutes it lasts for.

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Track of the album Black Francis, is an ode dedicated to their biggest influences. It’s a typical Orwells song – classically chaotic and fun with a superbly catchy chorus made for dancing to. Lyrics “Black Frank has got my world in his hands” shows just how grateful the band are to Pixies, a band who have shaped their attitude and sound.

Hasty and fast paced are words often used to describe tracks by The Orwells and first single Buddy, sticks true to that declaration, giving glimpses of early tracks by The Vaccines, which in it’s shortness, is so addictive that when the track ends, we call out for more. The majority of Terrible Human Beings still carries the iconic rattle of the band, like Heavy Head, but there are times in which they strip back from this mischievousness, like in M.A.D, which without the spark that originally made this band unique, feels flat.

The band, in their maturity, have opened up to new ideas and closing track Double Track is a perfect example of what the band are capable of creating. At seven minutes and eighteen seconds, it’s the longest track on the album by far – no other track even reaches four minutes. Guitarist Matt O’Keefe said in an interview that the song was based on a permeating base line with instrumentation that repeats over and over so that if forms a chain of repetition. This can be seen clear in the track’s lengthy distorted instrumental section halfway through the track which then ends as the track starts, in it’s calm, disorientated state. It’s a wonderfully creative ending and shows the band in a completely different light.

As a whole, the album stands out as the best piece of work the band have created so far. The tracks somehow intertwine with each other, maybe due to the effect the distortion has on the album, but nevertheless, the rowdy Chicago band have found a way to calm down and it’s rather refreshing.

7/10

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