“Average” is not a word I thought I would use when referring to The Orwells. The garage rock band from a small suburb in Elmhurst, Illinois have been delivering heavy and consistent material since 2012; however, with their new album Terrible Human Beings, they fall short of this consistency for the first time.
Thankfully, they chose to kick things off right with one of their already released singles, “They Put a Body in the Bayou.” One of four singles released before the full album, the opener starts what is the only decent side of the record. With lyrics about sex, drugs, and a corrupt leadership, listeners are met with the classic Orwells they got hooked on in 2012.
Alas, this association with their past albums like Disgraceland cannot last forever. Throughout the entirety of the album, I found myself waiting for that one song to hit me and make me say “Yeah, that’s The Orwells, and that’s why I love them.”
However, I only felt this with the four singles: “They Put a Body in the Bayou,”“Buddy,” “Double Feature,” and “Black Francis.” These are hands down the best tracks on the record, but they only gave me false hope for the full album.
“Buddy” is everything I love about The Orwells: fast, heavy, and messy in the most satisfying way possible. It’s the shortest song on the album but does significantly more in just under a minute thirty than “Hippie Soldier” does in almost four minutes.
“Hippie Soldier” (the eighth song on the album, and directly following Buddy) is where things really started to fall off for The Orwells. From the shrill “harmonies” to the childish chorus, I genuinely question the choices they made on this obscure track. There are times during the song where it actually seems like they were afraid to let loose, something The Orwells have never been afraid of doing in the past.
Immediately following “Hippie Soldier” is the only song of the final six that met my expectations and and is original to the full album: “Heavy Head”. It’s dark and ominous lyrics matched the heavy guitar riffs making for one of the best songs on the album.
Unfortunately, “Heavy Head” transitions into what is probably the most confusing, non-Orwells aspect of this entire record: “Body Reprise.” The strange, instrumental noise track catches listeners off guard, and calls into question whether or not they’re actually listening to The Orwells.
Keeping consistent with the painful last half of this album, “Ring Pop” comes in as the nail in the coffin of this disappointing Orwells record. In the words of a dedicated Orwells’ fan, “It’s a pop punk song but not a good or clever one.” Two descriptions I never thought I would apply to the Orwells are average, and especially not pop punk.
My favorite of the four singles, “Double Feature,” is a whopping seven minute long track that immerses listeners from start to finish. It is fairly different than what we are used to hearing from The Orwells, but it is the best sort of different. However, this is the closing song of the album, and the build up to it left me less than satisfied to say the least. Having to muck through all the other disappointing tracks severely took away from some of the best aspects of “Double Feature.”
All in all, Terrible Human Beings is unfortunately an extremely average album. It is a disappointing accumulation of songs that comes close to landing in a significant way, but fall short at each attempt. Although it is not saying much, considering Disgraceland and Remember When are two incredible albums, Terrible Human Beings is handily The Orwell’s weakest album yet.
In my opinion, Terrible Human Beings should have been released as an EP, having only “Buddy,” “Double Feature,”“Black Francis,” and “They Put a Body in the Bayou” on it. These four singles are what The Orwells can and should be. They are diverse, satisfying tracks that truly display everything these extremely talented guys have to offer.