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Album Review: The Orwells – Who Needs You EP

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There are two schools of thought when putting together an EP. One is to approach it as a miniature album—a condensed, filler-free work of art that, despite its shorter length, has the potential to be as vital and distinct as a full-length record. Pavement, for example, pulled this off back in 1992 with Watery Domestic. It had a scant four songs, none of which appeared on any other releases and all of which ranked among the band’s best material.

The Orwells‘ latest EP (their second in less than three months) is also four songs, and only seven seconds longer than Watery. But nearly a third of its 11:34 runtime is filler, which brings us to our second school of thought: the EP as a bonus album. It seems that more and more musicians view extended plays as dumping grounds for remixes, live recordings, and other odds and ends. The Orwells are the latest enablers of this trend; of the five tracks on their still newly-minted Other Voices EP, one was a live performance of a song from their excellent debut, Remember When, and one was an alternate, Dave Sitek-produced version of the title track. This left the listener with only three original tunes. Who Needs You—produced entirely by Sitek—feels equally as inessential.

Of course, none of it’s bad so much as it’s slight. Even with their catchy gutter-punk riffs, “Open Your Eyes (A Misfits Ripoff)” and “Salvation Is A Parking Lot (A Black Lips Ripoff)” are exactly what their subtitles say they are, and, aside from being an octave higher, a live take of “Halloween All Year” does little to distinguish itself from its studio counterpart. So that leaves us with the title track. A sonic middle finger to the military and revisionist history, it deserves credit for being a departure from frontman Mario Cuomo’s usual tales of morbid teenage love.

It’s also worth noting that, more so than any of their other releases, Who Needs You manages to capture the youthful unpredictability of The Orwells’ live show. Thanks to Sitek, the five teens sound rawer here than on any previous outings. It’s just odd that the band would put out two piecemeal song collections so close to each other instead of combining them into one flawless EP. We can only hope that the three new cuts here won’t pop up on the next full-length. Otherwise, Who Needs You won’t only be inessential; it’ll be completely pointless.

Essential Tracks: “Who Needs You”

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