The Orwells – Disgraceland Review

Oh haven’t you heard? The Orwells are the real deal. The saviours of rock n roll. Mario Cuomo is the new Robert Plant too. His hair is the same so it must be true. The Illinois group have been getting a lot of attention. Whether it’s been from Mario humping a speaker on Jools Holland or from his enlightening war of words with Alex Turner. The band the Monkeys were taking on tour with them have labelled the Arctic Monkey’s sets sounding the same and them being a commercial band. Though Turner’s response was frustratingly on the same level as The Orwells frontman, it’s probably a good thing that the Arctic Monkeys have a degree of commercial success and not The Orwells then. Perhaps they’d disown themselves? It’s a credit to any musician that they can have a decent sound and couple that with commercial success. Perhaps The Orwells are portraying their envy a little too well. Amongst all this and other well documented controversies; then you’d be forgiven for forgetting that they have an album out.

Disgraceland has been slowly drip feeding it’s tracks for nearly a year now and one of the early ones is ‘Who Needs You’. It’s a bouncy, energetic track with an unrelenting, well oiled and sprung rhythm and short and sharp percussion with the lead riff pouring over it and a screaming and throaty vocal tearing through it all. This review could have been given in 2010, 2004 or 2001 and what does it say that while The Strokes have long buried that sound, while being very proud of it’s legacy; that new and young bands are simply copying and pasting it upon themselves? The song is delivered with great precision and with all the controlled chaos of a Garage Rock Revival band, but with this track they are at the very back of a huge, long line of successors over the last thirteen years and god knows that we don’t need another, cheaper version when the premium brand has already been consumed. ‘Dirty Sheets’ is pretty much the same deal. Those screeching lead guitars shooting across the rhythm section along with the tumbling percussion. It then leads to the oh so typical back and forth rhythm which The Black Keys have decided to throw into the back heap of dross. Having a girl strip topless in the video is perhaps a realisation that no one is going to watch their video for the music, but it doesn’t escape from the fact that this track is decidedly threadbare and no amount of clothes shedding is going to change that. An act of compensatory factor? Probably…

‘The Righteous One’ is delivered well and the vocals combine well with the instrumentals which build up and bring down their sound to accommodate the verses and the vocals within them. All this song makes me want to do, however is listen to Jack White or one of his bands… funny that isn’t it? The broken up rhythm structure just sounds painfully familiar and outdated which is fine if you are a fan of the sound. I am too. But why listen to this faithful tribute when you could listen to the real thing from Jack White himself? He delivers and engages with the sound a hell of a lot better than The Orwells. Umm ‘Let it Burn’ is mind-numbing and humdrum recapitulation of things I’ve already said. I’m under no illusions that it wouldn’t be a fanatical experience live, but even then you’d have to be drunk out of your mind to appreciate it. Other tracks such as ‘Norman’ simply apply a rough edged, American vocal to a bland, monotonous guitar drone that sounds like it’s been taken from an unsuccessful Britpop group from the late 1990’s when everyone had packed up and left British music in the hands of Travis and Coldplay… we head to ‘North Ave.’ where we see how not to emulate Pete Doherty with a Nick Valensi riff… The album tracks have none of the energy and conviction of the singles and so they become even more of a painfully bland experience. Their energy and faithful tribute to much better and profound artists is perhaps one of the only positives I can scavenge from this album. The sweet irony of this is that behind all the forced bravado and propaganda against more ‘commercial’ bands; they wouldn’t have a band without them. These bands are The Orwells and no amount of two finger gestures at them is going to alter the fact that they are ripping them off. If you want to buy into their transparent ‘truths’ then fine, but this band were well past their sell by date before they even left the shelves.

The Orwells – Disgraceland = 4/10

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