Manchester Orchestra

Simple Math

Written by: TL on 01/06/2011 00:41:27

Some two years ago, Georgia-based five-piece Manchester Orchestra released their second LP "Mean Everything To Nothing", which gathered rave reviews and was named by many as a contender for the title of album of the year. Hell, I even thought it was quite good myself, and hence, I've since been among the scores of music nerds looking out for the follow-up "Simple Math", which was finally released in the middle of last month.

And now, I really don't like it. Don't get me wrong though, I think it's a good, maybe even a great record, there's just something about it which is preventing me from loving it, and that pisses me off to no small extent. Confused? Great, now we're on the same page then.

Before I explain though, let's recap the band's sound for the newcomers. Basically, Manchester Orchestra is a band whose sound occupies some sort of no man's land between the sounds of Arcade Fire and Brand New, and all anyone really knows about this imaginary location, is that it must be in the states, because this hybrid sound is also drenched in torrents of Americana, from the deposits of both folk and classic rock. It makes one of the harder cases of explaining I've had to do, as the music is mostly at the same time drenched in a country-ish feel, even while progressing from subtle parts to more raw, and noisy ones.

On "Simple Math", Manchester Orchestra super-size that sound, enlisting the assistance of a large number of violinists, choir-singers, trumpeteers, et cetera. The result is a collection of ten songs, about which I am forced to attribute many qualities that I usually require in a great album. Things are dynamic, characteristic, varied and there is no shortage of moments memorable, as proven by songs like "Mighty", "Pensacola", "Simple Math", "Virgin" and "Apprehension", all of which include parts which are easily recognizable and which you will likely sing along to on repeat listens.

In spite of that though, there's something intangible missing in my experience. Even in "Virgin" and "Simple Math", which could arguably be called mellower and more mature versions of Brand New's sound of late, I just don't feel like things really catch fire (to use a lame metaphor). In listening to the record, I sing along to select parts, but I don't feel entire songs, nor do I really feel at all animated at any given moment, and you must excuse me, but that severely handicaps the whole experience for me.

This, more than anything else, is what aggravates me about "Simple Math". From every factor of it, that I have learnt to assess as a reviewer, it really should be an excellent record, but still it doesn't feel like one, and that leaves me looking right stupid, having to resort to nothing-saying arguments like "maybe it's the songs that just aren't good enough". I've listened to the record a ton now, and still, it doesn't seem to change, and it's gotten to the point where mostly, I'm writing this review to get the album out of my hair. And on these vague grounds, I'm forced to shave the grade down to reflect my impression, even suspecting that some time later, the proverbial penny will drop, and I will realize that I've made a fail worthy of comparison to my grading of "The Devil And God...". I guess that's a piece of humble-pie I'll just have to eat though.

Download: Virgin, Apprehension, Pensacola
For The Fans Of: Arcade Fire, Brand New, Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, mewithoutYou
Listen: myspace.com/manchesterorchestra

Release Date 10.05.2011
Favorite Gentlemen

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