Manchester Orchestra

Mean Everything To Nothing

Written by: TL on 15/07/2009 13:00:40

Earlier this year I got hold of Manchester Orchestra's new album "Mean Everything To Nothing", in an attempt to add another indie rock band to my knowledge bank, so that I might continue to presume to know anything about the genre all together. However, as you all know, suddenly May and June were upon us with release upon release relevant to my interests and in the rush hour I forgot about putting a release date for this album on my list, and thus it was pushed to the back. That's why this review is so late, yet I have decided to write it anyway, simply because it's quality stuff that you good readers deserve to know about.

This album is the band's third, but as I have alluded to, it is my first rendezvous with their music, so no comparisons to past material will be made. Instead here's a description: The easiest way to explain MO's sound is to ask you to think about Bright Eyes at their very loudest and then crank up the rock a bit more even. This is also a primary reason for me liking them, because that's exactly what I've been missing from Mr. Oberst on his past three albums, and if you take a singer that sounds very much like him and throw that voice on top of some classically Americana-rockin' stuff with hints of Decemberists and mewithoutYou then what you get is a band whose base sound is simply solid Gold.

The band is a five piece embracing all the classic instruments, piano and keyboard included, and this of course makes for a good and layered soundscape with lots of detail and texture. Tasteful string parts are used to maximize effect here and there and while I suspect they come from Chris Freeman's keyboard, that doesn't really matter when it sounds as classy as here.

But what of the songs then? Well, that's really where some people might hit a slight speed bump. You see the stuff on here isn't as directly catchy as most appreciators of more modern bands would be used to. The choruses and refrains here seem very traditional and are thus a bit difficult to become friends with, and while quiet/loud dynamics play a large role in the soundscape, they mostly divide a song in half rather than make it an up/down/up/down ride. This means you have to pay closer attention than you would to a usual dumbed down modern rock album, but then if you do, there are plenty of gems to unearth. The first one that really floats my boat is "Pride" as it drags on with a threatening attitude, gaining momentum till it finally unleashes a noisy climax at the end. "100 Dollars" is a quieter example, and yet the words "I am fine! I am fine! I am fine, I just need one hundred dollars!" are probably the hardest to shake off after the record is up. Other highlights are the two opening tracks "The Only One" (which oddly sounds a bit like Motion City Soundtrack) and "Shake It Out", "My Friend Marcus" and the closing "The River", the latter of which reveals MO at their most epic, as front man Andy Hull unleashes his most desperate croon: "Oh God I need it!/Well I was wrong again!/Take me to the river!/And make me clean again!".

In the end, this is an album for people who know how to appreciate classic American rock, while the people who enjoy the quick licks and obvious choruses of more modern music may find it too much to swallow. If you find yourself in the first category however, there's a wealth of musical riches to be found on "Mean Everything To Nothing", with songs that rock with both class and power and a diversity that makes for some solid replay-ability. It's not quite up there with the most recent albums from mewithoutYou or The Decemberists, but it is as close as can be, and if you're a Bright Eyes fan who misses the loudness of for instance "Road To Joy" then this record should truly oil your machinery.

8

Download: Pride, 100 Dollars, The River, Shake It Out
For The Fans Of: Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, mewithoutYou
Listen: myspace.com/manchesterorchestra

Release Date 18.04.2009
Favorite Gentlemen/Canvasback

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