All that I know, it’s no way to fix it!
It was during the summer of 2009 when I made an impulse buy at HMV in Liverpool. I had read this review about a band I had never heard of. It sounded good to me and I trusted the magazine that had published the review. “Mean Everything to Nothing Manchester Orchestra” was printed in Western style letters on the front of a thin digipack. Inside was a CD and between the cover was a thin booklet with the lyrics and credits. The pictures completing the artwork were stills from faded 8mm film. All in all it was a rusty, rugged and dirty affair that didn’t reveal much of the insides. Mean Everything to Nothing ended up in my top list for 2009 and still is an album that I love going back to. The warm vocal harmonies, the crescendos, the brizzling guitars and comforting stories about love, friendship and life. It’s one of those albums that have aged really well – even though when I listened to it back then, I was in a completely different phase of my life than now. I can still relate to it, and now I also have great memories that I associate the songs to.
2011’s follow up Simple Math was a more mellow album. I was running scared of losing interest in this band that I treasured so much and held in such high regard after their second album. Somehow the drive was lost. The momentum gone. Looking back now, the band says that they’ve also been kind of lost. Now after three albums on a major label, the band returns with a new record. Recorded mainly by themselves, in a suburban house they made their home, together with longtime collaborator Dan Hannon. Recording in their own home allowed the band to thoroughly work on their songs, on their sound and their musical identity. If Simple Math was a very scatty record without a consistent direction, this one is the opposite.
There’s two twin deaf kids and they’ve gotta make an ungodly decision
They decide which one gets to leave this place and which one will forsake it, to make it
The opening lines are giving away what you can expect on this record. There’s a steady tension between the melodies and mellow moments off their debut and the noisy moments of their second album. But while ‘Mean Everything to Nothing’ used the heavier moments fairly canny, ‘Cope’ has a general brutality in its sound. The guitars are probably roaring louder than they ever have in the Manchester Orchestra universe. Andy Hull’s voice is still the centre and yes, the stories are still clustered with religious references and there are definitely plenty of melodies that can melt cheese. But something has changed. If their first two albums were showing their Georgia roots, it showed in sun drenched, swampy pop songs. Now the point of reference can be found in sludge, maybe stoner rock. Basically it’s awesome intense indie rock with heavy guitars. And that’s what makes it sound so fresh in an indie world where twangy guitars and singer songwriters flood our ears on a daily basis.
Cope is out now via Caroline Records/Universal Music.