ARTIST: The Orwells
Youth-injected, high-wired, blonde hair exploding, tight pants wearing, punks, from the outskirts of Chicago, some members of The Orwells just graduated from high school a year ago with the road and live concert promoting shenanigans in sight. Now these rock ‘n’ roll babies just put out their second album Disgraceland, channeling a balance of pop-rock and punk in order to illustrate a varied new sound that opens the eyes of loyal listeners and new fans to come. However, the high hopes that were once undeniable for this new band seem overestimated as their recent release appears forced and alien compared to their old sound. There seems to be a contortion of sound on Disgraceland, growing into an avalanche of confusion for the album as some tracks do not seem to sound cohesive at all. The energy that was exciting and invigorating, classic and natural, on their debut album Remember When faded away, a helium balloon let loose by the grip of an ignorant child. What once sounded like haphazardly controlled flower punk is now a peculiar mix of pop and nineties alternative that leaves the listener perplexed.
The issue with Disgraceland is that the sound is varied. It’s dysfunctional. There is a a fine line between asking the question “Oh who is this band?” and “What is this band?” There is a loss of intrigue after a few songs, the talent gets lost within the messy production and disorder. It seems that only an album ago did this band know who they were. The result is an album that has moments that expose the shine and promise, while the other gray areas make the album an inaccessible conundrum that begs the listener to question who this band is. The delirious moaning on “Norman” and copy cat vocals on “Dirty Sheets” are moments where one has to question The Orwells and if they have rushed into something that they are not prepared for. Moments where there is a gap transition from tracks like “Who Needs You” to “Norman” or from “Bathroom Tile Blues” to “ Gotta Get Down” The Orwells conjure confusion of four completely different sounds; and not in a way where the plethora of genres exhibited portray variety, but multi-personality dementia. The inconsistency of the album is what really seems to get the band in trouble. Cuomo’s vocals sound different on almost every track. But the major dilemma is not contributed to the fact that these songs are flat, or bad, but only adequate. The songs feel forced, immature. They fall in places or lag for too long in others. The potential of The Orwells is very much here, it’s just hidden under a mess of scratchy guitars and pop melodies.
So what happened to the band that charmed the audience of David Letterman and Letterman himself this past January with hip-pulsating antics, rolling on the ground in the lightening vibrations of the band jamming in the background? Young. Unexpected. Alive. These are all words that pertain to The Orwells and the reason why this band can be so compelling, addicting. Tracks “The Righteous One,” “Who Needs You,” and “Always N Forever,” are highlight the hollow, and haunting vocals of Cuomo, the biting guitars of Dominic Corso and Matt O’keefe, the sadistic bass of Grant Brinner, and the energy steering drums of Henry Brinner. The lyrics leave tipsy and nostalgic with lust. The tone of the album seems to be surprisingly dark, contrasted against the light and bouncy pop-rock infested production. Some songs take on the endless theme of unrequited love with alcohol, while other topple into the terrain of lust gone wrong and fatal love affairs. With a mixture of rockstar cliches and overworked songs, it ain’t bad, but it ain’t great: as put in “Southern Comfort” they “ain’t the worst, [they] ain’t the best.”
"Eyes on the prize, Eyes on the prize/ I'm not that old but I'm getting pretty wise."