The Orwells – ‘Disgraceland’

The Orwells - 'Disgraceland'


Hold on tight, the Chicago garage-rockers' return is a dizzy and dirty rock'n'roll joyride

Straight outta high school, straight onto the road, come The Orwells. They’re here to drink your beer, eat your crisps and make a godawful mess of your sofas. More than that, they’re out to make men of themselves. Maybe even legends.

Where these Chicago reprobates differ from their icons – MC5, The Stooges, Led Zep, The Doors – is that they’re much better on record than on stage. Ironically for a band that recently dissed Arctic Monkeys for playing predictable shows, The Orwells’ own gigs, though rowdy, are laboured in their stage-managed, fan-snogging ‘wildness’.

The real party is here, in ‘Disgraceland’. Just a swig of the Strokes-sounding ‘Southern Comfort’ leads to all manner of chaos: a tempestuous tumble in ‘Dirty Sheets’, a dizzy rock’n’roll case of ‘Bathroom Tile Blues’. The Orwells embrace a lusty life on the lash with the devotion of self-immolating monks. “Give me a smile and then take off your pants!” yowls mini-Morrison frontman Mario Cuomo, totally and utterly seriously.

Unusually for an album – their second – that’s so desperate to party, there are already signs of unravelling. “My daddy’s got a twelve-gauge/I hope I don’t find it,” yelps the other voice in Cuomo’s head on the Pixies pastiche ‘Gotta Get Down’. ‘Norman’, meanwhile, is a Wall Of Sound portrait of a serial killer on the rampage that resembles Phil Spector’s lost soundtrack to Psycho, while ‘Blood Bubbles’ appears to be a detailed description of a suicide pact. Thematically, they’re equal parts Mortiis and Motley Crue, with a touch of Manics thrown in – “You wanna join the army?” Cuomo bawls on the USA-bashing ‘Who Needs You’, the sound of The Libs firebombing a draft office, “I said ‘no thank you dear old Uncle Sam’”.

Morrison, Spector, Doherty, Cobain; The Orwells know their roots and they know how that story plays out. Hence ‘Disgraceland’ reads like a premonition of their own burnt-out, psychopathic breakdown, their rock’n’roll joyride swerving off down dark, deadly roads. If you’re riding shotgun, hold tight, it’s all downhill from here.

Mark Beaumont


Director: David Sitek, Chris Coady, Jim Abbiss
Record label: Canvasback/Atlantic
Release date: 02 Jun, 2014