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The Orwells, ‘Other Voices’ EP – Album Review

Canvasback/ATL

The Orwells have one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll stories: Five friends start a band to avoid suburban monotony and learn the songs they love. Eventually, the try writing their own and create some that are not so terrible — that other people might stand in a room to watch (and even pay for the privilege of doing so). Said fans eventually danced or moshed or did whatever kids in Chicago do at shows these days, and at the end, they probably applauded and asked for a little more.

In 2012, fresh out of high school, the Orwells dropped ‘Remember When,’ their first proper LP of fuzzed-out, up-tempo rock. It didn’t exactly make a splash, but for guys that had never planned on success, getting a song on Pitchfork was a pretty big victory.

The ‘Other Voices’ EP is another step toward some eventual uncertain goal, and a successful one for guys that don’t really know where they’re going. Its five songs can’t be dismissed as punk or garage and probably skew closer to what’s going on at the NYC DIY space Shea Stadium with the So So Glos. If we learned anything from that Brooklyn crew this year, it’s that pulling off spirited (if stagnant) rock music might require a lifetime of practice.

Not that the Orwells aren’t ready. They even hired TV On the Radio’s David Sitek — who has produced four albums that have come out since April — to record an alternate version of the title track. They have the swagger that comes with years of observation, but the songs that, well, that’s a different story.

The focus of ‘Other Voices’ is the title track, an accessible yet mindless tune. The hook gets repeated over and over for three-and-a-half minutes, and as a result, the lighthearted anthem becomes rather tortuous. There’s a point where the bridge — the bridge that doesn’t really have any musical reason for existing, other than to space out the needless chorus — makes the listener question why ‘Other Voices’ is still playing. The Orwells have not yet learned why other bands in the house-party universe they inhabit wisely write songs that are 60 seconds long. And even if you do go on for too long, you definitely shouldn’t let a song repeat itself, even if David Sitek hung out with you for a day.

The rest of the EP works better — one of the standouts is ‘Mallrats,’ their Pitchfork song — but it nevertheless feels insubstantial. Of course, in rock ‘n’ roll, not every band needs to have a point or some grand reason for existing. The story the Orwells tell their children may be a simple one all about that one time their high school band was noticed by people.

How that story ends depends on the Orwells, who may soon find out that rock ‘n’ roll is not as easy as it looks.

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