Single Review – The Orwells – Double Feature

The Chicago quintet The Orwells are to release their third studio album Terrible Human Beings on February 17th and though there will be a lot of hipster hype in their exclusive press circles, especially at this time of year when new releases dry up, it’s safe to assume they won’t deliver on that hype. It would be worth giving them a shot, but if the current single releases have taught us anything, it’s that they’re still a band of impersonators or an American Catfish and the Bottlemen. ‘Double Feature’ echoes this still with their current sound featuring Kings of Leon and The Strokes with some Grunge dressing. Not only this, but the transition between these familiar parts is awkward to boot. The lyrics offer us more ‘hot chicks’, fast cars and high school drama that is tiresome and may only find appeal amongst teenagers from Bath wanting to escape their British middle class nightmare and escape into this all American parody. 

Owen Riddle

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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“They were desperate to say that “oh I went to this great café. It was really authentic. The cutlery was all dirty”” – Jarvis Cocker

“Psychedelia has become too much of an easy tagline. Really the term should be about exploration” – Tom Cowan

” I don’t see a story unfolding with bands because it is gap year music. It seems like somebody has said, ‘I think I’ll do an album then my dad will give me a job in the accountancy firm’.” – James Dean Bradfield

“As soon as it sounds fine, I’m on to the next thing” – Damon Albarn

“I know there’s bands that’ll write something like The Smiths and they’ll go ‘Oh it sounds like The Smiths’, but we’ve got to not make it sound like The Smiths” – Noel Gallagher

“I think a lot of people study the rules too much and don’t know how to be creative” – Julian Casablancas

“That’s really scary because it’s hard to see how music and art can continue to develop or challenge itself within these new, very commercial frames.” – Karin Dreijer Andersson

I feel that the floodgates have well and truly opened for the hipster and I now feel like I have a good enough grasp of it’s ‘culture’ to make an educated comment. In their short existence, the Hipster has made a mockery of Indie music and left it a laughing stock. The new breed of fans and bands seem to have largely split themselves into two new camps. Desert Rock and Psychedelic Rock. Yet for some bizarre reason they believe it’s ‘scene’ or whatever to talk like an L.A gangster… or gangsta as they would say. God I dread the day when social historians look back at 2014’s Twitter timeline to see tweet after tweet stating “These nu vibez got me trippin blud! The guitarist is so rad ‘n’ such a bae” For me it just shows how music is a backwater here. It is all about the image and the trends and that is true for the ‘artists’ and as a consequence the fans. After they cottoned on that The Black Keys were getting attention, but mainly after the sound of Arctic Monkeys last two LP’s; big, bulky, distorted guitars have been all the rage. Stand up Royal Blood, Drenge, Circa Waves, Wavves, The Orwells. You show me the difference. Psychedelia and Neo-psychedelia have been the other targets. Again, they cottoned on The Horrors or Tame Impala were getting attention and now you have The Horrors desperately trying to disassociate themselves from the new context of the term Psychedelic. Stand up Swim Deep, JAWS, Peace etc. Show me the difference. Amongst other things I’ve noted is that I listened to ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ by Palma Violets genuinely thinking it was The Vaccines. Show me the difference. That ‘totes indie’ jangling riff is a common trait of Peace and The 1975 as well as the way both vocalists sing with that lethargic slur and how stagnant and devoid of character their lyrics are. Can someone please draw a dividing line between Peace and The 1975? They are one in the same to me. What makes it more humorous is that fans of each think the other is killing music. I guess hypocrites never recognise their own reflections. Bastille and Tom Odell put on such a vocal style that makes them appear allergic to their vowels in a not too dissimilar fashion to Peace and The 1975. The almost endless amount of times a band will blatantly rip someone off is comical too! You can get all worked up about One Direction’s army of writers stealing classic tracks but listen to ‘World Pleasure’ by Peace. Would they still feel so strongly about it then? In fact they will take pride in the fact it sounds like Pet Shop Boys or The Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, Daft Punk etc. etc. Nirvana is a common victim along with QOTSA, The Clash, Pulp, Bowie, Suede, Manics, Oasis, Blur, T Rex, MBV, The Beatles, Stones etc. etc. all tainted by the dim minded artists of the hipster generation. It’s a quick fix when you’d rather be picking out your tie-dye, leopard print and fakes glasses then writing your own music. It is a crime in equal measure of hiring teams of writers for your songs. Music and it’s advancement loses out on both occasions. It’s easier to stay hip and just copy off the innovators rather than emulate them in being innovative yourself. It’s easy to say you are ‘influenced’ by someone if you are just ripping them off. But then again this time last year their fans were probably influenced by Ellie Goulding or Example and so will not know the difference.

Do not fear though… the innovators of 2014 are there if you slash your way through everyone trying to be different while being one in the same. The sheer inventiveness of St. Vincent, The bold and brave production of Beck, The pulsating rotations of Wild Beasts, The dark, electronic currents of The Knife, The echoed chambers of Warpaint, The sonically charged, expanded sounds of The Horrors and so many more. You don’t have to follow the hipster cycle of destruction. Just follow what sounds new or interesting. Don’t let another genre become as toxic as Indie has become.


“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.