Chicago-based rockers The Orwells are back with their latest effort, Terrible Human Beings. This is their third full-length album, following Disgraceland and Remember When. The Orwells have a formula and it’s evident early on in this record. It’s in that formula where the listeners decide whether they are fans.
They aren’t a punk band, but that ethic exists in the crunchy three-minute-and-out songs. But when you line up songs like their latest single, “Buddy,” and a song like “Southern Comfort” from 2014’s Disgraceland, there are similarities that stand out but may not necessarily be a good thing. There’s the opening drum track that lasts about 13 seconds in the former and 18 seconds in the latter, leading up to the vocals.
Then there are the muddled vocals on nearly every track that disguise much of the lyrics. It’s hard to tell whether this was done by choice or is a production issue. Take, for instance, “They Put a Body in the Bayou,” a track that continues the pattern, but turns into an Oasis song. The opening guitar riff sounds like something off Definitely Maybe. The vocal production is more pronounced, but even then, there is an echo that makes it difficult to understand everything being sung. It’s reminiscent of “Rock n’ Roll Star,” the opening track off that Oasis album.
“Black Francis” stands out as the best track on the album, but even then, Marco Cuomo’s vocals are pared back and the listener is forced to strain to understand what is being sung.
For some, it won’t matter, because the album absolutely rocks with intricate guitar solos like on the 7-minute, 18-second “Double Feature.” These signs of brilliance are few and far between, however, and the album suffers from sameness. There isn’t much to differentiate the tracks from one another. While “Double Feature” does stand out, it’s certainly not enough to save the album.
Even the most diehard of fans will understand that there must be a sign of progression from one album to the next. The Orwells aren’t growing as musicians; they’re stagnating. The album isn’t bad, but it’s not creative or different. It’s just another pass at mediocrity.