Terrible Human Beings

The Orwells have come a long way from banging out power chords in suburban Illinois. The garage-rock fivesome’s third full album, Terrible Human Beings, has all the building blocks of their last studio effort, 2014’s Disgraceland—roughneck lyrics about hookups in pickup trucks, sleazy barroom riffage, squealing amplifier feedback—but it demonstrates a sharper focus and less reliance on the garage-rock revival blueprint laid out by The Strokes. The Orwells are stepping into their own sound. Weird, dirty and dark guitar noises discolor pop songs, and catchy melodies are messed up with dissonant chords. And the subject matter remains as seamy as ever. Take the ramshackle rocker “They Put a Body in the Bayou,” on which frontman Mario Cuomo sings: “Good boys come in last/Bad girl by my side/Poppin’ pills on the fly/Cold grave when I die.” Instrumentally, the song plays with the listener’s expectations by avoiding obvious and overly familiar chord progressions. The Orwells haven’t reinvented the wheel, but they sure bent it out of shape.