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

Image from www.nme.com / belowthefoldblog.com

 

The Black Keys – Turn Blue Review

It’s been two years since El Camino and in that time Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been looking to progress from the stocky, bold and traditional Rhythm and Blues outlook from a 21st century band. It worked pretty damn well for the time and environment of 2012, but they couldn’t go back to that sound again if they wish to maintain their reputation as one of the most sought-after bands in the world. This decision was perhaps made easier by the wave of bands now copying the styles of their most recent albums but to a lesser standard. Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) should also receive much praise for his production of their recent work in making their songs more direct and to the point. If Turn Blue see’s the large shift of direction that was promised then both sides of the recording studio should be well capable to deliver.

 ‘Fever’ offers up that initial changing sound. It features snappy percussion, a more prominent bass line generating a driving buzz in the immediate background. The chiming bursts from the old style synths add that hook and melody of repeating effectiveness. The vocals are scaled up and added to on the chorus to continue the enhancement of latching on to the listener and it does so well. The guitars on this track are merely here for ballast to the song as they have opted for other routes for their primary functions. ‘Turn Blue’ is a much more smoother track with a slow fluidity to it with the strung out and nudging riff along with the rotating bass line. When this is joined by the winding and manipulated synths and effects, it provides an easy churning quality which keeps the song on the move so to speak. Dan’s vocals are simple but matching of the songs feel with more wistful and closer sound of the lyrics that he easily alters for a softer and subtle sounding falsetto which adds to the songs gradual growth in the chorus before reverting back to the intimacy of the verses again. Both tracks are very classic viewpoints with some more modern novelties thrown in that maintain the intrigue.

‘Weight of Love’ opens with a classic prog rock intent as the soaring lead riff breaks through the easy and drawn out sound. The bass and the rhythm after this are again so fluid and easy on the ear along with the lightly oscillating synths and organs. The vocal combination of Dan and the backing vocalists, which has been tried and tested, also works well here amongst a very distant and open musical landscape with the guitars growing from his lyrics. The song seems to evoke that sort of nothingness of regret in singing about ‘not giving in to the weight of love’. ‘Bullet In The Brain’ opens in much the same fashion with more classic methods of creating a spaced out and expansive sound though minimalism and simple echo and modulation. This steps up along with the songs tempo as it garners more of a purpose with gentle, flashes from the synths before the chorus kicks in with Dan’s wistful and echoed vocal. The contrast between the expansive elements and the more immediate guitars and percussion offer up that dual quality of being engaging on a distant level and enjoyable on a more basic level. ‘Waiting On Words’ features an indulgent falsetto that links in with the light shimmer of the organs and guitars. ’10 Lovers has more prominent and fluctuating bass line with simple acoustic fringes and wiry electronica to provide a more eccentric hook. ‘Gotta Get Away’ has a more classic rock pop feel to it with the rocking and swaying guitars, the thin organ melodies and the backing vocal harmonies. The album as whole is a faithful take on the past with a more soulful element along with more modern fringes and sides through effects and production from Burton. I like this new take they’ve taken up as it’s slick and easy in it’s entirety along with it’s delivery and even though it isn’t wholly innovative, it is an accomplished album which showcases their musical variation and prowess.

The Black Keys – Turn Blue = 7.5/10

This Weeks Music Video with Damon Albarn, Black Keys, Kasabian and The Franklys

Kasabian – Eez-eh

The Black Keys – Fever

Damon Albarn – Heavy Seas of Love

The Franklys – Puppet

Single Review – The Black Keys – Fever

The Black Keys return from 2011/12’s El Camino with a new single entitled ‘Fever’ and an announcement of their new album Turn Blue which will be set for a May 13th release. El Camino was a raw garage and blues rock triumph and their has been a string of albums that have featured heavy and brash distorted guitars. A bigger shift in sound was certainly needed and it will an opportunity for them to reaffirm their talent. ‘Fever’ offers up that initial changing sound. It features snappy percussion, a more prominent bass line generating a driving buzz in the immediate background. The chiming bursts from the old style synths add that hook and melody of repeating effectiveness. The vocals are scaled up and added to on the chorus to continue the enhancement of latching on to the listener and it does so well. The guitars on this track are merely here for ballast to the song as they have opted for other routes for their primary functions. An intriguing first track from the album that leaves room for improvement but is a good enough first step.

Image from consequenceofsound.net