For a second successive night in London an NME Awards Show is headlined by a teenage American indie band. Following on from Radkey at the Sebright Arms on Sunday, The Orwells put on an impressive performance at the rather larger 100 Club. Again, blood ties are strong, with the five-piece from the suburbs of Chicago featuring two brothers and two cousins. The band’s thrusting garage rock fits in very well to a venue adorned with the photos of famous past acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Sex Pistols and The Clash.
The two support bands warmed the place up nicely. The Southern-style alt rock of Georgia’s The Silver Palms sounds a bit like early Kings Of Leon, while the Glaswegian The Amazing Snakeheads create a powerfully menacing atmosphere, with singer/guitarist Dale Barclay eyeballing the audience provocatively as he prowls around the stage wearing an incongruous flowery shirt.
The Orwells’ notoriety as a wild live act precedes them, though they were on pretty good behaviour here – at least until near the end. Front man Mario Cuomo evidently revels in being the centre of attention, like a podgy slacker cherub flopping his long blond locks with a naughty beatific smile and a glazed look in his eyes – which may not be unassociated with the bottle of wine he was swigging from on stage. He likes to get down close and personal with the adoring fans at the front, which later leads to him snogging a young girl and being dragged into the crowd.
Putting the teenage kicks to one side, The Orwells’ music is mature beyond their years. Their debut album Remember When, back in 2012. was full of surprisingly accomplished songs, and was strengthened by two EPs last year. The band shows the influence of the likes of The Ramones, The Replacements, The Strokes and Black Lips, but not excessively so, while their grittily melodic tunes and refreshingly spontaneous attitude have a potentially wide appeal.
Their 50-minute set kicks off with the brilliantly disturbing Other Voices. Highlights include the fuzzed-up The Righteous One, the psychotic Halloween All Year and jaunty first single Mallrats (La La La), which goes down a storm. Played as an encore, the rousingly anti-nationialistic Who Needs You is an anthem for youthful rebellion. They close out with a down and dirty version of The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog. The songs may mainly be a reflection of familiar adolescent angst but they express perfectly the perennially youthful spirit of rock ’n’ roll for which The Orwells bring new blood to the party.