Orwell’s fourth album is keen to be regarded as a concept, “Lyrically pointing the way to a future untroubled by the irrational fears and tribalism that hamstring so much of our political thought”. This statement of intent is arguably questionable but what Orwell do bring to the table is melodic classic pop influenced by Eno, Krautrock and 80’s (1984 even?) influenced productions that are both enigmatic and cinematic at once.
Orwell is basically the vehicle of songwriter Jerome Didelot who is arguably on par with and sounds a lot like the Prefab’s Paddy McAloon and Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside. The 80’s comparisons are not criticisms and Didelot’s songs flourish in this environment. Echoes of ZTT darlings Propaganda come to mind and Trevor Horn is undoubtedly an influence here, coupled with the ghost of Eno’s Music For Airports.
The album starts with the title track Continental and is at once optimistic, spacey and fresh whilst Didelot sings in English, German and French. Musically it is Kraftwerk meets Howard Jones having a white wine spritzer with Nik Kershaw. Lonely Ride sounds like a journey and is also a song that I would listen to again. A wonderful production that tastefully uses both melodica and stylophone, with arrangements and embellishments that recall early solo McCartney and traces of fellow Frenchmen Air. It is the best song on the album. Disappointingly, On This Brightful Day is filler and the McAloon/Gartside comparisons grate on the vocal front. The Wife, The Battlefield continues the dip in quality and pinpoints the main criticism of the album in that it is too lyrically obtuse to mean anything and its underlying concept is hidden.
However it picks up again with Lovely Boy, a tale of the passing on of dreams and Eastern is an instrumental collage/soundscape that is heavy with Eno’s influence and also short and sweet. Always starts off like Autobahn being played by Air but disappoints in its lack of lyrical theme. Anytime Is Now is very cinematic in a Beverley Hills Cop soundtrack stylee and is also very well written with an excellent chorus. Them starts like Beck’s Deadweight and segues into Paddy McAloon singing about something that sounds intelligent but alas indecipherable and thus again meaningless.
Secret Movies is an excellent instrumental that is darker in tone and dripping in Moog and melodica. A Long Way To The Start has a heavily George Martin influenced orchestration and is a wonderfully crafted song but it does emphasise a minor criticism of the album’s production in that there is a distinct lack of bass at times. The penultimate Following… is a short soundscape that leads on to Everytime The World Is Too Loud and alarmingly ends the collection with a whimper. There are some nice Mantovani strings but it’s too much like advertising muzak.
Orwell’s latest offering has the duality of brilliance and frustration. The music created is both settling and boundary pushing but the lack of lyrical direction stifles the album in places. The press blurb states, “The listener can give its underlying concept as much or as little attention as they please”. Arguably, Sherlock Holmes would be hard pressed to find the concept contained in this album as the lyrics, if political add up to nothing more than a manifesto of apathy.
However with this generation’s political impassivity, Orwell’s Continental could prove to be in tandem with the zeitgeist.
Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan