In case you didn't know, The Orwells were, like The Strokes or Kings of Leon, one of those Yank bands who first found success on the other side of the Atlantic. And, like songs from those acts, there's something here on the band's new record, Terrible Human Beings, that is direct and effectively American-with-a-capital-'A' (even if it's material that's derivative of those earlier bands' better singles).
Terrible Human Beings, the new one from The Orwells, drops on Friday and it is, like so much of this band's back-catalog, the kind of vaguely alternative rock that is sort of dumb on purpose. In another decade, the talented folks in The Orwells would have tried to write simple-but-smart tunes like those of The Smithereens or Fountains of Wayne. Instead, taking a lead from the Southern-but-brainy-appeal of the Kings of Leon, The Orwells craft (with a knowing wink) big, silly numbers ("Vacation", "Creatures") that work best when cranked at high volume and in small doses. For example, lead single "They Put A Body In The Bayou" sounds exactly like you'd guess it would sound if you saw that title and knew anything of this band's other songs. Elsewhere, an ode to the genius behind The Pixies, the appropriately-titled "Black Francis", rides a riff that is only the very slightest bit similar to stuff on Surfer Rosa. And yet, in some way, a bit of rawk glory is attained for a moment. The cut is, like so much here, nothing exceptional, and it certainly lacks the wit of even the weakest Pixies number but it is, marginally, the sort of riff-rocker that works on its own limited terms.
When they succeed, The Orwells do so with a blend of early Ash and a dash of Hoodoo Gurus. The excellent "Buddy" works so well precisely because the band finally sounds like they don't care about sounding like anyone else (even if they do a tiny bit). Similarly, "Ring Pop" roars impressively and offers up nothing so much as a sort of 21st Century spin on Nirvana's big singles, the rough, genuinely dangerous edges smoothed away entirely. That's not a jab but, rather, the reality here. The Orwells are never going to change the pop universe but they are, in their own way, capable of cranking out stuff that is very nearly the best kind of rabble-rousing rock that this world has far too little of. The absolutely excellent "Last Call (Go Home)" sounds like -- don't laugh -- early Supergrass crossed with Mewswear -- have this Florida lot been going through the Britpop bins at those used CD and record shops in Camden Town? -- and the melody is a big winner.
Like so many of those Britpop bands, or The Strokes updating No New York templates, The Orwells are refurbishing earlier styles for a new generation. If nothing here is The Ramones' "1, 2, 3, 4"-mock simpleton brilliance, there's lots on Terrible Human Beings that is perfectly serviceable and certainly better than a lot of what gets played on the few remaining real rock radio stations in this world. And, for that reason, and the delicious hooks of a handful of these numbers, I'm going to give this a guarded recommendation. The Orwells are not quite as good as they think they are but their songs are certainly the sort of thing that goes down real easy in small doses. Serve up any cut from Terrible Human Beings on a mix, and you'll probably like this band as much as I do, if not more.
Terrible Human Beings is out on Friday. You can follow The Orwells if you must via their official Facebook page.
[Photo: Kelly Puleo]