The Orwells don’t just embrace this sleazier side of rock, they revel in it.
Rock ‘n’ roll has always had a sleazy side. Most of the time it’s little more than a gimmick, an act. But with Terrible Human Beings, the Orwells don’t just embrace this sleazier side of rock, they revel in it. There’s an air of grime running through the album, whether it comes from the lyrics on “They Put a Body in the Bayou,” the overall vibe on “Creatures,” the Kurt Cobain-esque vocal twang or wailing riffs that tend to pop up on nearly every track. It’s quickly clear the record’s title wasn’t chosen randomly. There’s a thematic through-line that works to create a cohesive body of work that fans of the band and indie-tinged rock in general will certainly be able to use to get their grimy jollies.
Terrible Human Beings works on a number of levels, particularly on the aforementioned tracks. Here the Orwells go out of their way to write nasty little tunes about slime ball people and the sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll lyrics don’t give the impression the band was trying too hard. In fact, this may be the most focused the band’s ever been. “They Put a Body in the Bayou” is a grimy song that is slow, abrasive and could fit nicely in a scene of a film featuring after-hours sleaze joints stuffed with people doing all sorts of unsavory things. By contrast, “Fry” is rather upbeat and shows off a little surf rock while maintaining the album’s overall thematic tether with lyrics like: “There must be something in the water/ Their mild obsession with mass slaughter/ Billboard topping entertainers/ Baghdad, that is shitty flavor/ TV nation, channel changers/ Rob your family, kill your neighbors.”
“Black Francis” is a tune that deviates from the norm a bit. But, like its namesake, it’s idiosyncratic, noisy, occasionally a-musical, yet ultimately wildly enjoyable. So much so that it could be the track that sells an on-the-fence listener. “Buddy” is another standout that breaks the mold. More a radio pop track than a study in excess and debauchery, the driving beat, infectious chorus and short runtime make this tune one to go back to over and over again. It’s also a little bit of a welcome deviation from the album’s vibe in general just because it offers a little light in the dark. Check out “Ring Pop” for another more traditional indie rock track with a twangy riff that will undoubtedly embed itself in your subconscious for days to come. And, if you’re interested in hearing what a Danzig-era Misfits tune sounds like while atomically fused with a little Nirvana, head directly to “Heavy Head” for an inexplicable, but tremendous influence combination.
The Orwells, while not seeking to write a concept album, have managed to churn out an impressive, thematically linked set of tracks that is best consumed as a whole. The best songs on the album often deviate from the gritty, grimy themes, but they act as excellent palate cleansers. Terrible Human Beings is quite an achievement, one which reinforces the band’s talents while acting as a shining beacon indicating that wherever the Orwells go next, it will more than likely work out just fine.