I read an interesting profile of The Orwells, a band from Elmhurst, Illinois that has been getting some radio play and whose major label debut comes out this summer. It sounds like a common story: four suburban kids put a band together during high school, find they have some talent which is affirmed by others, and are forgoing college to make a go at it in the music industry. Yet, I found this bit about their new album interesting:
They’ve got their major-label debut, “Disgraceland,” coming out in June; its cover, shot by Eddie O’Keefe, depicts a cookie-cutter post-war Elmhurst house.
From theorwells.com, here is the cover of the album:
A fairly typical home from the Chicago suburbs: split-level, a yard, detached garage in the back. Why the focus on critiquing the suburbs with the image and the title of the album? I listened to some of the band’s songs on SoundCloud and found the group doesn’t say much specific about the suburbs. (As for their sound, it is a mix of classic and modern rock.) Indeed, the theme of a number of the songs seems to be normal stuff for rock ‘n’ roll: how to get the girl. There is a song called “Mallrats” (with a music video filmed at Yorktown Mall) but its verses talk about a girl and the chorus has numerous repetitions of “la la la.” Of course, the new album may have more material about the suburbs.
Maybe this kind of explicit sexual desire is taboo in the suburbs. Maybe the suburbs are simply boring. But, I wonder if this the new album cover and title simply mimic decades-old critiques of the suburbs as too confining for rock music. Does the album contribute anything new or unique about suburban life? The profile of the band suggests the members had a pretty good family life with plenty of ongoing family support plus good educations. Were the suburbs really that bad or is this a simple way to show the band is turning away from the stereotypical clean, comformist, and dull suburbs? If so, they are in a long line of writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians.