I grew up with two older brothers and a dad who surfed. We had a caravan on the beach down the coast, with sun and moon pattern bed sheets and the damp smell of forever-drying wetsuits in the air. I learnt a lot on those coastal trips. I learnt that if you insert a folded straw into the coin slot of a payphone you can talk for free for however long you want, and that you should always wear some form of rubber footwear in public showers. Once, when I was about 14, a whole group of 16 year old guys camped on the same street as our caravan and I noticed that they were eating cereal out of halved plastic coke bottles. So I walked to their camp site and gave them some spare paper bowls and spoons from our vinyl wood patterned kitchenette. The reception I received was everything you are imagining – I was a goddess among mere mortals.
Watching The Orwells play at The Airliner last Saturday, all those memories came flooding back. It would be easy to attribute my nostalgia to a simple fact – The Orwells are teenagers, and they look like the guys I gave cereal bowls to. Deep down in the heart of my ear drums, I know it runs deeper than that. The Chicago five-piece are wild and free and completely open to the idea that they might not know very much about anything. Their lack of both pretension and arrogance is what makes every song so daring, so honest, and so cool. They are all really, really cool. Their loud, unapologetic, messy-but-sort-of-clean sound encapsulates everything that is awesome about growing up. They sound like they are eager to live, and it’s contagious.
Opening with ‘In My Bed’, frenzied front man Mario Cuomo rolls his eyes so far back into their sockets I’m afraid they won’t ever find the front of his face again. Behind their low-fi garage punk sound is a brooding darkness, as Cuomo mutters “You’re young / They don’t listen / But I believe / Get a knife from the kitchen / And follow me” on the track ‘Halloween All Year.’ By the end of the song I’m seriously contemplating Cuomo’s ability to carry out mass murder on a devastatingly large scale. Mid-way through their new jam ‘Who Needs You’ I am mentally flying down the road on my bike with salt water drying on my lips and the sun setting on my face, even though physically I am standing with my back to a blue cement wall at a venue somewhere in Lincoln Heights. After thrusting out their hoodlum anthem ‘Mallrats’, I officially decide I’m starting a band. The set ends in a bunch of howls and distortion oozing from a sweaty bunch of boys, but instead of feeling old, I feel young. Then I remember: I still am. Sometimes it’s not just cool to be carefree – it’s necessary. The Orwells are a living, breathing, kicking and screaming reminder of that.