The Orwells were still in high school when they released their first album, Remember When, back in 2012. Now, they're returning with their follow-up titled Disgraceland, which will be released on June 3rd. You can stream the album above.
This is the band's first album recorded as high school graduates, which means some may toss the word "mature" around to describe it. In some ways, this album is more mature than their previous LP, considering that they worked on it with producers Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys), Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), and legendary producer / engineer Chris Coady instead of self producing it in their basement. However, their subject matter remains the same as before: girls and booze. Frontman Mario Cuomo sings, "Drink by drink I think and think and why won't you hang with me this weekend / I can't walk and I can't dance, give me a smile and take off your pants," on album opener "Southern Comfort." While talking to Rolling Stone about the band's influences, guitarist Matt O'Keefe says:
There were a lot of people we were listening to — you know, cheesy Seventies rock bands you can't get into when you're in middle school but then you rediscover and you can finally understand what they're singing about. Like a lot of Cheap Trick and the Heartbreakers.
Disgraceland might be influenced by '70s rock, but it sounds closer to early 2000s post-punk revival bands. While singing, Cuomo sounds like The Killers' Bandon Flowers, but when he screams, he sounds like The Strokes' Julian Cassablancas. Because of this, Disgraceland fills a void left in anyone who misses the post punk-scene of last decade. The guitar playing is melodic, the drums are loud, and the music is just plain fun.
Album standout "Who Needs You" is the heart of the album. This track already has become popular after a stellar performance on Late Show with David Letterman earlier this year. It's so catchy that not only were The Orwells asked to do an encore, but Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra began playing the song during the show's credits, with Schaffer mimicking Cuomo's stage antics. It's an energetic, furious track that may be the band's best song to date. It's that moment on the album where you realize that Disgraceland is something special.
Other songs have the band experimenting with other genres. "Norman" has that signature Motown drum beat (kick, kick-kick, snare). It's a silly horror story, with Cuomo singing, "The killer's here and it's gonna get gory," before listing everything that blood got splattered on. "Blood Bubbles" is a doo-wop ballad with a punk edge. O'Keefe's guitar weeps with distortion and reverb, giving the song a haunting vibe. Cuomo sings on the album's most chilling moment, "She screamed out for help, but nobody came / So she picked up my gun and put it to her brain."
Album closer "North Ave." has the album's most melodic guitar line over a swing rhythm that suits the band incredibly well. Cuomo paints a portrait of high school puppy love as two sweethearts walk hand in hand on North Avenue after school, singing on the album's final line, "See you after school." It shows that the band may not be ready to grow up, even though they are maturing in sound.