Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Orwells Take On Disgraceland

The Orwells
With a couple more years under their belts and a bigger label, The Orwells find being outcasts is easier as teens than young adults. When you've finally signed on to being one of the popular kids, everything produced begins to feel like an apology as opposed to the authenticity that gets you there.

The result is kind of a crazy paradox where everything sounds better but that doesn't necessarily mean that everything is better. Disgraceland is about being inadequate and left on the sidelines because it isn't always easy to enter society when you start out as a reject from high school. Except, they really aren't.

Two years ago, they sounded like older souls projecting what it might be like right around the corner. And now that they are, it doesn't have the same harsh wisdom. It's just sad, even if it sounds all right.

The Orwells started out as an alternative to sports.

When The Orwells debuted two years ago, they already had three years under their belts as a backyard band started in middle school as a means to get girls. Nowadays, the passion has fizzled out for purposeful punk-induced vintage rock. It's bigger, bolder, but maybe not as honest. It's hard to say.

The Righteous One is less about anything than the experience of being there. The track itself comes across like overly polished garage rock backing the carefree lines of being somewhere but too messed up to really care where. It's a big contrast to some of the headier writing on their debut.

Dirty Sheets covers much the same ground. It's a song about touring, being a mess, and putting women on a pedestal until the sun comes up. When it does come up, it's time to slink out before someone wants you to play the name game. It's pretty clear that would be too much for this crew.

Patriotism is too much too. As part of the stay-on-the-fringe persona, The Orwells belt out Who Needs You, a sixties-inspired anti-draft ditty that sounds good but feels out of place in an era where the armed services turn more people away than they recruit. The expectation is a bit overblown.

It's all right to some degree. Disgraceland is a party album, with the better songs feeling a bit more authentic like Southern Comfort, which touches on what it feels like when you become one of the older people at the party. It becomes a bit more uncomfortable when you don't know the newcomers.

It also becomes a bit more uncomfortable with the singularity of tracks like Bathroom Tile Blues, Gotta Get Down, and Blood Bubbles. The tracks all sound different but they mostly recast the same theme. It essentially becomes a bit tired. Thank goodness for Norman and North Ave., which aren't necessarily as good musically but do allow the band to stretch their legs a bit more.

North Ave. is a nostalgic teen wisdom track that feels like the last few empty pages of a high school yearbook. Norman, in contrast, is a sentimental party song gone bad and pleading for forgiveness, especially from whatever women he wants to be accepted by while nursing that hangover.

All in all, Disgraceland is decent album that takes the band in the wrong direction. It can be simultaneously appreciated in small doses and loathed for abandoning what could have been a better progression from the DIY vibe of their introduction tracks like Mallrats and All The Cool Kids.

Disgraceland By The Orwells Lays Down 4.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The band still benefits from Mario Cuomo's vocals and the continually improving talents of a five piece with all their original members. They're not nearly as sloppy as they used to be (even if you wish they were), but most people agree that their stage presence is intact (no matter what happened on Letterman). Fans will love it for awhile even while critics give it a lukewarm reception.

Disgraceland by The Orwells can be found on Amazon. You can also download the sophomore album from iTunes. Barnes & Noble carries Disgraceland by The Orwells on vinyl. For tour information, visit Facebook.
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