Review of ‘Other Voices’ by The Orwells

First published on http://soundblab.com/content/content/view/id/5228/preview/1:

In the years since The Strokes emerged with Is This It, a number of bands have been justifiably castigated for lazily aping their sound – indeed, some have argued that guitar music has remained in a somewhat catatonic state ever since. The past couple of years, however, have seen the arrival of two bands who are clearly in the lineage of The Strokes and yet provoke not weary sighs at another album of derivative indie, but quickened heartbeats and the urge to get drunk and jump around till you throw up – ie, what the best guitar bands should sound like.

One of these bands is Parquet Courts, whose debut album Light Up Gold was a terrific blast of DIY tunes which last no longer than two minutes, and which channelled the spirit of The Strokes by seeming to not give one flying fuck what you thought of it – a far cry from the calculated, polished indie music which really represented the nadir of The Strokes’ influence. The other is The Orwells, a five-piece who only graduated from high school earlier this year, having already released their superb debut album, Remember When, in August 2012. Like Parquet Courts, they specialise in music that sounds like it was recorded in one take by a bunch of mates in between spliff breaks, rough around the edges and as if liable to collapse in on itself at any moment.

Other Voices is no great departure from that aesthetic but also sounds sufficiently ambitious to signal they’re serious about making waves as a band, as indicated by the fact the EP contains two versions of the title track, one of which was produced by the ever-impressive Dave Sitek. True to their DIY nature, however, the self-produced version is the first track and is the better of the two. Demoting Sitek’s version also shows admirable chutzpah for a group of 18-year-olds yet to fully establish themselves as a band.

Opening with crashing guitars, featuring lyrics like “Take a drink then let’s make out/ Your pupils wide, let’s go outside/ Light up a smoke, then start to cry”, and a chorus that rushes onwards like sprinting when you’re drunk, it sounds like being young and cool and hedonistic – all of which one suspects The Orwells are rather well acquainted with. ‘Blood Bubbles’ and ‘Head’ are no great shakes but there’s also a live version of ‘Mallrats (La La La)’ which acts as a decent enough introduction to their debut – though it’s ‘In My Bed’ and ‘Ancient Egypt’ which were the true stand-out tracks from the album.

Five years ago the music scene was dominated by second-rate Strokes imitators. Today, dance music is enjoying something of a comeback, with decent acts like Disclosure, Katy B and Jessie Ware doing well in the charts and the onward march of EDM in the US not looking like ending any time soon. So it’s slightly ironic that it’s now we’re starting to get some bands making Strokes-a-like indie which rivals Is This It, as opposed to merely aping it.

Perhaps it needed a decade to pass for some youngsters to come along who could simply see 2001-era-Strokes as an influence rather than a starting point. Who knows? What we do know is this: Forget The Vaccines; forget Tribes; forget Two Door Cinema Club. The truly exciting guitar music is being made by bratty American teenagers again – and for that we should be thankful.

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