Review Summary: Machester Orchestra's debut is more a who's-who of the major indie rock bands of the last fifteen years than a cohesive and original album.
If there is one major problem with modern music and more specifically modern indie music it’s that far too many bands are content to simply regurgitate the music of their (vastly superior) influences. It seems like every genre has their one seminal band followed closely by a tenfold of clones. Maybe I just set my standards too high but when I listen to new music I want just that; something new. What I don’t want is to hear the same music I already love re-recorded by teenagers. Take Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra, their music is pleasant enough, some good songs, some not so good but all together it’s a stellar burst of indie rock. Problem is that Built to Spill
did this ten years ago, and not only that but they did a lot better job of it. Don’t be so quick the write the band off however; to their credit Manchester Orchestra has a trick up their collective sleeves. In order to avoid the music loving public realising the obvious they have the cunning ploy of marketing themselves to the pop punk crowd who think Pavement
is the British word for sidewalk. It’s a shame they didn’t put so much thought into song writing.
“I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child” opens up with easily its strongest work. “Wolves at Night” seems like great single material. It has a bouncy Modest Mouse
feel and even contains the same dissonance that made Isaac Brock
such an influential song writer. Worth mentioning also is that vocalist Andy Hull sounds identical, not close, identical, to Placebo’s Brain Molko
. So much so at first listen a brief Wikipedia check was needed to make sure this wasn’t a side project. From a very solid early grounding the album floats around in various directions never quite nailing anything of interest but never dropping low enough to really warrant negative comment. It’s all just far too safe in truth. “Where Have You Been” is reminiscent of a stripped back Arcade Fire
number. They attempt to go for the epic but the song just falls flat and never really gets going despite a promising start. Lyrically the band is outwardly Christians in their message. “Now That Your Home” leads with the line “Sweet Jesus, I swear that I love you,”
and religion remains a recurring theme throughout. However don’t be fooled this is not the witty and intelligent manner in which Brand New
or Modest Mouse
approach spiritually but a far simpler approach that verges on worship. Not only is the content weak, so is the delivery. Hull lacks the way with words with has built Bright Eyes
and Death Cab for Cutie
such successful careers.
However despite all the failings there is a glimmer of potential. Ignoring all the plagiarism there is something here that, with a firm sense of direction and a more original sound, could make for a good follow up. The band has the song writing potential as shown by songs like, “Wolves at Night” and “Sleeper 1972” and they are more than proficient instrumentally. Like many debut albums though they struggle with consistency and are yet to carve out a niche for themselves. All is not lost though, Radiohead
once made a awful and generic slice of Brit-Pop named Pablo Honey
and that fact alone always gives me hope that a band can achieve anything no matter how bland or generic their debut album may be.