Manchester Orchestra


Written by: TL on 08/04/2014 15:13:13

Atlanta quintet Manchester Orchestra broke a hole through to the music industry at large back in 2009 with their second album "Mean Everything To Nothing", developing the slightly emo stylings of their '06 debut "I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child" into something that felt both classic, alternative, folksy and recognisably American and paving the way for the following '11 release of "Simple Math" to be surrounded with considerable online hype - Perhaps so much hype that the album was praised somewhat above its own lasting value at the time of its release. Nevertheless, the band has been quiet since proceedings following "Simple Math" wrapped up, only to come back recently with the first signs of their fourth full length "Cope", which was released a week ago and which we shall take a look at here.

Manchester Orchestra are no strangers to line-up changes, and between "Simple Math" and "Cope" drummer Jeremiah Edmond and bassist Jonathan Corley have been substituted with Tim Very and Andy Prince respectively. The melodic nucleus of guitarist/keyboardist Robert McDowell, keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman and lead singer/guitarist Andy Hull remains intact however, which makes sense to me, because judging especially from "Simple Math" and "Mean Everything To Nothing", the band's strength has always been in the contrast between Hull's characteristic, slightly child-like, indie-rock vocal-style (think Conor Oberst or Patrick Stickles) and the various tones and effects delivered by the melodic instruments of his two comrades - more so than about a particularly remarkable rhythm section.

Where those tones often had classical string sounds standing out as compliments to the rock on the two former albums however, "Cope" comes out the gates wanting to punch you in the mouth with truly classic rock - near mother-lode heavy-metal - guitar chords. The overdriven crunch that opens first cut "Top Notch" immediately conjures up mental images of stacks of large amps, and as the keys howl like threatening organs in the back, it's a lumbering, headbanging pleasure to hear the song's simplistic dynamic between muted verse and roaring chorus.

After such a statement of intent, one could hope that Hull and his gang have returned in full force, but alas, similarly to "Simple Math", "Cope" is not quite the consistent attention-seizer that the band's hype could lead you to hope. It does have some more highlights to offer though: "The Ocean" is a rollicking kind of song with a refrain that can pull your attention back no matter where it's wandered off to, and "Girl Harbor" has a bit of verse that will sneak its way under your skin as well. Moving across the album's eleven tracks however, the "threaten then rumble" does get to feeling homogenous however, and neither the band's melodic thrift or stylistic diversity manage to be striking enough to land home with every song, often leaving things mostly compelling to those who come prepared to dive into Hull's lyrical universe, which does offer some thought-provoking catch phrases in the vein of "I don't want to believe but I want to believe in you" for instance.

Mostly though, despite the increased reliance on riffing instead of string arrangements (hi there "Simple Math"), "Cope" sounds similarly like a record with prolonged stretches that will take long to penetrate, without ever yielding as satisfyingly as the highlights that are obvious right away - here being the hard-hitting "Top Notch", the closing title track and the aforementioned "The Ocean". Instead of spinning more conjecture then, I find it safe to call that "Cope" will offer most curious ManOrch listeners what each of their albums have; namely two to four songs to remember it for while the rest of it is more of a "for dedicated fans only" affair, in the sense that these tracks extend the band's unusual musical style just without really having that "highlight" feel to them.


Download: Top Notch, The Ocean, Cope, Girl Harbor
For The Fans Of: All Get Out, Weatherbox, Titus Andronicus

Release date 01.04.2014
Loma Vista Recordings / Favorite Gentlemen

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