***1/2 (out of four)
Reviews often overstate a band’s growth from album to album, so let’s put it this way: Many people make a lot of progress between their late teens and early 20s. Those years have served the Orwells very well.
The Elmhurst natives, who have spent 2014 opening for Arctic Monkeys and blowing David Letterman’s mind, have taken the raw promise of their sometimes-dull 2012 debut full-length, “Remember When,” and honed it into the smart kind of sloppy on “Disgraceland.” The group still at times sounds like a punky version of the Doors, yanked from the haze of the ‘60s and into a world of Millennial discontent. Yet throughout the new record, the quintet, featuring cousins Mario Cuomo and Dominic Corso, Matt O’Keefe and twins Grant and Henry Brinner, shows that they and their songwriting are ready for prime time.
“Dirty Sheets” simply plows forward, Cuomo declaring, “From the East Coast to the West, we ain’t the worst, we ain’t the best.” Later, on “Who Needs You,” he asserts, “Listen up, forefathers: I’m not your son.” Aside from being a well-produced rock record with an authentic snarl, “Disgraceland” is a rewarding album of young men searching for their place in the world and feeling OK about being stuck in the middle. A nicely placed guitar solo and jingling bells turns “Norman” into an unexpected epic, while “Always N’ Forever” is this century’s shout-along answer to older tales of innocent relationships and a fate sealed on two wheels and an engine.
More than just a dynamic, riveting live band, The Orwells now have the material to really get moving.
In concert: Sept. 13 at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park
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