The Orwells Remember When(Autumn Tone Records) Buy it from Insound
The teenage years are a time of discovery. It’s a period when music moves from background entertainment to an obsession. It’s no surprise that high school and college are full of battles of the bands and open mike nights. The Orwells are in the same boat, with a couple of differentiating factors. Not many teens would be in the same band they started in middle school. They certainly wouldn’t have a record deal either.
Remember When is a punk record, but not in a musical sense. Although tracks like Hallway Homicide and Suspended show off a stripped-down, hard-edged rawness, the Chicagoans seem more loyal to the genre’s ideals than its sound. This album is uncompromising in every way. The do-it-yourself production, the lyrics about deadened suburban life, and the harsh vocals display rebelliousness against pop’s shiny veneer. While instruments sometimes tumble over each other, it’s out of a sense of urgency to get their message across, rather than a lack of technical skill.
When they move away from sheer speed and fury, the Orwells let their sound wander into other territories. Lays At Rest is laid-back with lazy vocals and sluggish guitar work. But the lyrics include lines like “My baby’s dead / I shot him in the head”. The relatively calm music feels like the satisfied reaction of Travis Bickle at the end of Taxi Driver. His work is done, so he’s going to sit back and relax around the people he killed. Like No One Else throws out a little bluesy riff against a smoky synth, sounding like a lo-fi version of the Kinks.
The debut is nearly bookended by two audio clips from the 1950's. The first sample in Mallrats (La La La) drowns out a preacher rallying against rock and roll with a furiously-paced riff, punctuated by a snot-nosed shout. It ends on Under The Flowers with a rebuttal from Elvis Presley, responding to the rumors that he once shot his mother. The song itself has a little rockabilly, especially in the vocals. As the track rolls on, it moves forward in time until the vocals are a punkish scream of revolt. The only time this sampling falls flat when All The Cool Kids uses the theme from Psycho. Bernard Hermann's frightening composition is so well-known that it jars against the upbeat guitar melody.
For the Orwells, rock music should be angry, rebellious, and dedicated to truth. It’s the perfect setting for a young mind to develop into its own, rather than regurgitating past lessons that have been memorized. With this DIY aesthetic and boundless energy, they’re ready to continue the fight against bubblegum pop and passionless music. Rather than hanging up a diploma, this record makes for a more impressive achievement to display.13 August, 2012 - 09:55 — Joe Marvilli