Chicago’s The Orwells first hit it big with their 2013 song “Who Needs You”. Since then, they’ve been touring extensively and making raucous television appearances. They’ve established themselves as solid performers with a gritty, garage rock quality.
Their third studio album, Terrible Human Beings, released on 7 Feb., 2017, plays off stories of their crazy antics. The last single before its release, “Black Francis” matches the tone to the rest of the album: a sort of Pixies vibe. For those unaware, Black Francis is the name of the lead singer for the Pixies, and the song references some of their songs (“Viva Loma Rica”, repeated during the chorus, references a lyric in “No. 13 Baby”, itself referencing a gang in California).
“Black Francis” also tries to capture the same kind of earworm, lead guitar lick from “Who Needs You”. The call and response during the verse is fun and keeps the song in your head and it’s easy to sing along to. This is a theme that sticks with the rest of the album.
Terrible Human Beings is a fun album. It reminds me of music I would have listened to in middle school or high school, when I was just coming out of my mom’s ACDC collection and into the world of indie rock. And, like those albums, it’s something I would look back on and think: “It was great when I first heard it, but they have so much better material.” It’s a good stepping-stone into discovering good music, but it isn’t the best music you’ll find. Some of the lyrics are lazily written–“They never came to town / He really gets me down” from “They Put A Body In The Bayou”–and, while simple instrumentals are a staple of garage rock, the solos are all too similar. The songs blend together and nothing really stands out. I don’t find myself going back to listen to a song again, other than “Black Francis”. The album sounds great, but great production value does not make a great record.
Recently, The Orwells were in a Consequence of Sound article about the demise of rock and roll. The gist of it was that there aren’t any memorable new albums coming out, and Terrible Human Beings, unfortunately, falls into that category. While the band may have scored big, they may be relegated to one-hit-wonder.