Manchester Orchestra

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child (2006), 6.5/10
Mean Everything To Nothing (2009), 6/10
Simple Math (2011), 5/10
Cope (2014), 5/10
A Black Mile To The Surface (2017), 6/10

Atlanta-based quintet Manchester Orchestra, conducted (i.e. fronted) by Andy Hull and still teenagers, poured angst-ridden emocore on I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child (Favorite Gentlemen, 2006). The way songs are constructed is highly expressive. The catchy refrain of Wolves At Night is derailed by a roaring guitar solo and becomes a hysterical rigmarole. The neurotic melodrama I Can Barely Breathe changes rhythm multiple times. The most angst-filled dirge, Sleeper 1972, is barely whispered over a thin organ drone. There is enough variety through the rest (the stately elegy Now That You're Home, the peppy folk-rock of The Neighborhood Is Bleeding, the noisy Alice And Interiors to provide plenty of musical vocabulary for Hull's existential crisis.

Mean Everything To Nothing (Favorite Gentlemen, 2009) contains their most anthemic song, In My Teeth, the menacing I've Got Friends, and the effeervescent The Only One. It also contained the string-laden ballad I Can Feel A Hot One.

Simple Math (2011), instead, moved away from their emocore roots, but all the thinking and the arranging don't benefit Hull's muse, which is reduced to the mediocre April Fool and sinks in the quicksands of the seven-minute power-ballad Leaky Breaks. The psychodrama Virgin is too little to rescue the albums.

Cope (2014) attempted a return to hardcore but something had been broken forever. Hull was incapable of packing the same energy in his songs, and ends up with the mid-tempo Brit-pop of The Mansion. The notable exception is See It Again, worthy of Virgin. Hope (2014) is an acoustic companion to Cope.

Hull also scored the soundtrack for the film Swiss Army Man (2016).

A Black Mile To The Surface (Loma Vista, 2017), overproduced by Catherine Marks, seems to aim for grand U2-esque pop. The bombastic production ruins Lead SD and The Gold (but maybe there was little to ruin) and drowns the choral gospel The Maze. It is not a coincidence that this time around the best songs are the quiet ones, especially the simple tender The Alien that evokes Simon & Garfunkel. Alas, the more vibrant The Grocery adds breaks of distorted guitars, but, luckily, the acoustic The Parts is left untouched, unscarred. The seven-minute melodrama The Silence that closes the album is Hull's shot to become the Jim Steinman of his age.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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