Just Two Guys Messing Around: An Imaginary Compilation (of sorts)
Part 5 by Badgerman
S-WC and I are off on, as our wives put it so elegantly this morning, ‘another stupid boys road trip’. This time we are off to Crewe to watch some lower league football. Our wives are, as I put it just as elegantly, off on ‘a stupid girls shopping trip’.
‘Why Crewe?’ I hear you mumble. Well, it was chosen at random with the aid of a computer program. We included every team from the Top Five English leagues and whichever one the computer picked – we would go to (if they were playing at home on the given day). At the last-minute we excluded our two favourites (me Tottenham, him Gillingham) and we prayed it wouldn’t be Hartlepool.
It was nearly just as bad as with Crewe; out of interest, the second pick was Shrewsbury, so really we were quite lucky. We decided to also do another couple of the now legendary 11th track Imaginary Compilations – one on the way up and one on the way back. We also decide that this time we would both compile the albums – one half each. I get to do Side One of the Up Journey and Side Two of the Down Journey with S-WC doing the reverse.
We travel to Crewe in S-WC’s car and right away I realise that my iPod is still attached to my computer at home – so we have to use his (not normally a good thing).
His iPod is in an early 90s indie mood, the first five tracks are Mega City Four, The Levellers, The Senseless Things, Pop Will Eat Itself and Oasis; as journeys go it’s a pretty good start and I am already designing an Imaginary Chumbawamba album in my head (Mouthful of Shit, Behave!, Farewell to the Crown…).
We are sitting in the car park of Bridgwater Services when the track ten finishes – it was On A Ragga Tip by SL2 for those interested – as we decide that we need our first hot drink break of the day. The opening bars of Always N Forever by The Orwells fills the car. S-WC smiles.
As I sit in the café at the services these three things are on my mind:
(i) Bridgwater Services is the most unhospitable place on the planet. I’ve been to Afghanistan, twice, so this is really saying something. There are more chavs per square inch in this services than I care to think about. I’ve just seen a really morbidly obese chap in sports casuals with a slogan on it reading ‘Witness the Fitness’. There is also a bloke with a two litre bottle of cider, which is half empty. It is about 9.30am.
(ii) The ‘Hot Chocolate’ that I am drinking is neither hot nor chocolate but is in fact ‘Lukewarm suspicious looking brown sludge’. I think the person who sold it to me must have been the duty manager because his acne had cleared up better than the rest of the staff.
(iii) I don’t own a single second of any music recorded by The Orwells. So for the second time in a row I turn to S-WC and say ‘You’re going to have to help me…’
We resume our journey, and S-WC puts on some Orwells tracks. For those of you like me, who are not cool and down with the kids and don’t hang on every word that the NME writes about music, The Orwells hail from Elmhurst, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago, they are ridiculously young (the oldest member being just 22), and make a sneery bratty garage rock.
As it happens I rather like what I have heard. They have appeared on Later…With Jools Holland and have supported the Arctic Monkeys recently. They are another band (like Future Islands) whose careers have been bolstered by an astonishing performance on the Letterman Show. I’m going to describe them as ‘Like The Strokes with a bit of early of the Manics thrown in’.
Their second album Disgraceland is pretty fine – it not a tribute to the punk sound of The Black Lips perhaps. It is exactly the sort of record The Strokes stopped making about ten years ago. The singer Mario Cuomo doesn’t really sing the songs but rather barges his way into them. Like he is doing karaoke with his own band. It works though. I will add rather worryingly that Cuomo does appear to have a slight obsession with firearms
As I stated above – Side one of this compilation have been picked by me and Side Two will be picked by S-WC.
Side One – The Badger Side
Other Voices (Dave Sitek Version) – From Other Voices EP – This is a shamelessly confused declaration of infatuation with a girl who is “not the prettiest girl around”. The song is a ball of guitar heavy energy. The vocals are high intensity and the chorus is a massive earworm “I’m slipping in and you’re tripping out/I’ll let you in if you let me out”) and guitar breaks create a bubbly jam that will firmly lodge itself in the most stubborn of brains.
Always n Forever – From Disgraceland LP – A charming and perhaps slightly shambolic fuzz pop number that stands out for me because at the halfway point, the song stops and suddenly you hear an engine revving. It is essentially taking the piss out of that American Dream. Yet it still manages to perfect that quiet/loud formula successfully.
Dirty Sheets – Single – In my opinion this is their best song, a fairly simple love em and leave em affair. There is a roaming guitar that bursts in at the beginning of the songs that leads into a sort of pop song. It tries to be noisy but that guitar holds it together and it ends up being something of an anthem. Well I think so anyway.
Open Your Eyes (A Misfits Rip off) – From Who Needs You? EP – This is pretty self explanatory – the song is a rip off of a Misfits song – The Orwells are open and honest about – it’s a tribute and by listening to it you understand what they are all about. Nothing clever just lads influenced by other bands making a racket.
Mallrats –Live Audiotree Session – Perhaps the epitome of caution-to-the-wind American garage rock: tricksy babes, push-up bras, little girls in short skirts hangin’ at the food court and a chorus that goes “la la la la la la la la.” like “Other Voices” is sloppily perfect.
Side Two – The why don’t you pick all the best tracks Side
Who Needs You? – From Who Needs You? EP – It is in this song that perhaps The Orwells tried to show a political side – it bashes their homeland quite a bit ‘You wanna join the army’ the singer bawls followed by ‘I said no thank you Uncle Sam’. It also sounds a lot like what the Libertines did when they first emerged. The firearms issue shows its head here as well as he later admits ‘My Daddy’s got a 12 gauge, I hope I don’t find it.’ Also features on a recent Apple Music Advert so you may be aware of it.
Blood Bubbles – From Disgraceland – This is basically a detailed account of a suicide pact with lines about giving a girl a necklace made of telephone cord. It is of course slightly dark and probably a bit dumb, but its also smart and totally ace.
The Righteous One – Single – According to S-WC this is The Orwells best song, effectively it is a Sonics rip off. It is a similar to Always N Forever in that it concentrates on that quiet/loud dynamic. It also punches its way into the chorus and is a bit sulky in the verse. Lyrics like “Double double double double double double double dare falling down the stairs” aren’t going to win many Novellos but it’s the simplicity that is so thrilling. Then that chorus lands again, a Nirvana-sized tidal wave beneath which all is forgiven.
Southern Comfort – From Disgraceland – The thing about The Orwells is that they are not trying to be clever or ground breaking they are following a well trodden path – on this track they sound like the Ramones and it is at its best when the guitar riff is central and the lyrics are simply ‘Ah Ah Ah’. It is effortless catchy. A rare occasion when the words get in the way of the music.
Halloween All Year – Live Audiotree Session – Despite its weird Grease-style opening (yes the musical) once the song gets going with Mario’s call to ‘get a knife from the kitchen and follow me’ everything suddenly becomes a little sinister. It culminates with something that sounds like the singer coughing up a lung. Another example of the intensity with ultimately sits at the heart of every song The Orwells produce.
mp3 : The Orwells – Other Voices (Dave Sitek Version)
mp3 : The Orwells – Always n Forever
mp3 : The Orwells – Dirty Sheets
mp3 : The Orwells – Open Your Eyes (a Misfits rip-off)
mp3 : The Orwells – Mallrats
mp3 : The Orwells – Who Needs You?
mp3 : The Orwells – Blood Bubbles
mp3 : The Orwells – The Righteous One
mp3 : The Orwells – Southern Comfort
mp3 : The Orwells – Halloween All Year
So that is The Orwells, check them out you won’t regret it. I asked S-WC who he thought they sound like and he said Drenge sound like The Orwells. I’d agree with that.
The football by the way was pretty uneventful – a decent first half which produced three goals. Two of them for the visiting team Chesterfield. There were no goals in the second half. Crewe we find out later are bottom of League One, and looked doomed to League Two football next season. As we trudged back to the car we also note that by and large Crewe is a bit of shithole, sorry to anyone from Crewe – but you know its true. I’m happy to be leaving the place. We do have a decent bag of chips on the way back to the car though.
S-WC plugs the iPod in as we move off home. Ready for number 2 he says as a beautiful acoustic version of Detroit has a Skyline Too by Superchunk starts up. I look out the window, Crewe ain’t so bad – its prettier than Bridgwater at least….