For the uninitiated, Terrible Human Beings would seem an apt title to describe the shady contents of The Orwells’ latest album. Those familiar with the Chicago-based rock band will find themselves right at home from the first verse to the last, as the band harkens a cheeky and staunchly unapologetic album. Terrible Human Beings is fast, reeling, and fun.
“They Put a Body in the Bayou” opens the album with heady guitar and tasteful distortions that add to its strange lyrics. The song details a melange of topics, including sex, politics, and drugs. Containing lines like, “Told me to act your age / That’s why she’s underage,” this song, like many others on the album, is meant to turn heads and do so with dastardly images and concepts. Its bridge leads into a compelling hook that has staying power in the minds of listeners.
From this opener, The Orwells put in place conceptual themes and ideas that will be carried throughout the 13-track album. They put a body—and anything else they could find—in it.
“Heavy Head” grooves along smoothly until it breaks into the bridge, at which point the guitar switches to a screeching, repetitive rip. The waning guitar suggests panic and deliriousness as the song transitions into is chorus. Lyrically, this song can be interpreted in different ways. The Orwells speak of a kidnapping, but the nature of the act and who it affects, is unclear. If one takes the line “Duct-taped in a big white van” to work in conjunction with images of wolves and dogs, this song could speak allegorically to the woes of a captured animal. If taken literally, one might think that the song is simply documenting a kidnapped person. In both cases, the song adopts a strange and frantic tone.
The song “Black Francis” pays tribute to Pixies frontman Black Francis. The Orwells have cited the Pixies as a major influence, and this song full of hearty chords and fun, simple strumming emulates the stylings of the band. The influence can be felt throughout the album as the band adopts simple riffs and melodies. On the influence of the Pixies, guitarist Matt O’Keefe spoke to how they attempted to mimic them.
“I think that’s where a lot of trying to make the songs and the guitar parts very simple was coming from, because the Pixies are kings of that,” he said.
Though the rustic and aged sound of the band is compelling, one of the most gripping components of the album remains its lyrical content.
With a churning baseline, “Fry” captures an idyllic garage-band sound. Remaining upbeat and fast, this song is a short and sweet jam that again slips in odd images of “something in the water” and “fascination with mass slaughter” between guitar reverberations. “Vacation” uses a punchy bass drum and guitar to slide into ideas about killing civilians, masturbation, and vacationing all contained in a jaunty riff. “Creatures” whips together airy ideas about spinning, grinning, and looking for a soul. “Buddy” conjures up notions of sexual exploits and adventure.
Many of these songs sound contrary to their lyrical content. Upon a hearty listen, one might be surprised to find what lies just beneath the surface. But The Orwells seem to do so not to seem crude and abrasive, but truly to say something about the world as it exists. Many of these hedonistic or graphic images are ones, in today’s age, listeners are like to be familiar with.
Terrible Human Beings will challenge some listeners and bring others into a fold of daring thoughts about everyday things. Resembling rockers of the past, The Orwells sound like they have aged beyond their years, while spicing up their content with in-your-face, brash lyrics. While there does not appear to be a rock revolution laced between its tracks, the band has cut for itself a considerable piece of the market for sound and thought with this album.
Featured Image By Atlantic Records