Manchester Orchestra
I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
November 10th, 2009 | 90 replies | 24,229 views


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With a heavy heart and looking straight at you with cutting eyes, Virgin is a thoroughly worthwhile and affecting affair from start to finish.

Argh, emotion. It's difficult to find music entirely removed from it, but it's rare to find a record so submerged in human feelings that it eclipses any notion of technical proficiency or originality. They exist, though: Transatlanticism, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and the more recent For Emma, Forever Ago all stand proudly as examples of heavy, gut-wrenching songwriting made potent by the moods that their themes and atmospheres evoke as opposed to any particularly impressive musicianship or creativity. I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child sees Manchester Orchestra attempt the same: emotive, dramatic and lyrical, it sets itself up to hit harder every time it swings.

The 3 aforementioned albums incidentally serve as suitable reference points for Virgin, in different ways: Aeroplane's simple acoustics tinge mellow tracks like I Can Feel Your Pain; the soundscapes of Emma have their roots in the same bleak, atmospheric mindset as Sleeper 1972; and the range of approaches on offer reflects to a tee the indie-rock aesthetic of genre giants Death Cab For Cutie, especially as Where Have You Been?'s intro reveals its nostalgic, downbeat piano. Delivered with efficiency, these varied tactics have their origins in obvious places dotted around the last two decades' indie, picking and choosing from everything between Pavement and Elliott Smith. These influences are not directly copied, but they're hardly reinvented.

As Virgin plays out, though, it rarely sounds trite, and never clich├ęd, and there's a reason for it. Vocalist Andy Hull is another example of patchwork inspiration, sometimes recalling Jesse Lacey (I Can Barely Breathe), at other points conjuring Brian Molko (Wolves At Night) and at his softest resembling Nate Ruess, but always eerily sounding like himself. His accent and often defeated tone are mainstays and what they convey is the secret to Manchester Orchestra's prowess. These songs are almost blatantly constructed around Hull and his sincere musings, and what a brilliant thing that turns out to be. "If you knew I was dying, would it change you?" he asks in I Can Barely Breathe, a lyrical masterpiece of wasted potential. He goes onto plead: "If seeing is believing, then believe that we have lost our eyes!" and the song climaxes around him. As it should.

And there are shiver-inducing moments absolutely everywhere. Closer Colly Strings is the perfect way to end the record, a slow and tender ballad played out atop gentle ambience and a heartfelt acoustic guitar which builds amid teasing drums to a hollow crescendo which sees Hull deliver, "Besides, we can't believe without fear!" To say that Virgin is a masterclass in such soundbites, though, would be to grossly underestimate the group's ability to craft scenes and emotional situations. Standout Sleeper 1972 drones around a mournful organ and has Hull telling the story of his fathers death: "His soul flew right up in the sky, and I cried myself to sleep," he begins, and the song never climaxes. Elsewhere there is undoubted passion, crippling doubt and nervous fear to be found. The guitar lines match the mood that Hull creates; the percussion is often sparse but occasionally explodes and nuances like Sleeper 1972's whispered choral vocal tops everything off with an astounding level of consideration.

It would be extremely difficult to argue that I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child proves an extensive amount of musical mastery on behalf of Manchester Orchestra, although 2009 follow-up Mean Everything To Nothing is evidence enough that they have tricks up their sleeves even now. But if you think that removes any of the magic and excellence that's trapped between the four walls of their 2006 release, look a little bit closer. Virgin is phenomenal, a tour-de-force of matching music to a narrative and telling that story in the fewest and most powerful words possible. It doesn't redefine indie-rock, but it does see a hugely significant movement in a much more important sense. With a heavy heart and looking straight at you with cutting eyes, Like A Virgin Losing A Child is a thoroughly worthwhile and affecting affair from start to finish.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
November 10th 2009



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bored, no staff/contrib review, comments appreciated.

i like this better than METN.

PuddlesPuddles
November 10th 2009



4772 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Spot on, chap.

i like this better than METN.


sadddd faaaacee

SeaAnemone
November 10th 2009



19954 Comments


This is much better than METN imo... "Neighborhood" is my absolute favorite off this though, no mention?

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

Knott-
Emeritus
November 10th 2009



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i rarely mention tracks as "standouts" unless they relate directly to a point im trying to make about the record in general. love the song though!

PuddlesPuddles
November 10th 2009



4772 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How is this better than METN!!!!!

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2009



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the first two songs are great, the rest sucks

mean everything to nothing is 1000 times better

Skimaskcheck
November 10th 2009



2360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review man, i think this is underappreciated actually; i love it.
Just a small thing though - i think the lyric you mentioned in Colly Strings is 'besides, you can't believe without bleeding'.

Kiran
Emeritus
November 10th 2009



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the first two songs are great, the rest sucks

first two tracks + I can barely breathe

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

Knott-
Emeritus
November 10th 2009



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'besides, you can't believe without bleeding'.

i thought this then i lyricsited to check it and it told me the one i put. hmmm. fix'd.

the rest of the album is as good as/better than the first two tracks, stop being silly

EVedder27
November 10th 2009



6088 Comments


review is great as usual strikey. I may check this out soon since I liked METN.

Knott-
Emeritus
November 10th 2009



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

judging from your ratings and pie chart this would appeal to you more than METN. if you enjoyed that its definitely essential to check this out in any case.

barns
November 10th 2009



79 Comments


Good review, it makes me want to listen to this. I really like METN, and haven't got round to this mainly because a few people said that hearing METN they didn't realise it was Manchester Orchestra still. They're touring with Biffy Clyro which is great, but tickets at least where I am are sold out, and looking costly at the moment, which is a shame!

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 10th 2009



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Mean Everything to Nothing is still the best of '09 in my opinion, so I'll probably check this out. I don't even care if it's better that METN, it's just good enough that it's from the same band. Top notch review, strikey.

PatchworkNeurology
November 10th 2009



352 Comments


Don't let em see chu cry!

Roach
November 10th 2009



2149 Comments


This really isn't as good as Mean Everything to Nothing.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2009



7346 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Contrary to Mean Everything To Nothing, I don't care about this album at all.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2009



17204 Comments


METN>Nobody Sings Anymore>this

iarescientists
November 10th 2009



5863 Comments


is veterans day today or tomorrow

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2009



17204 Comments


tomorrow

iarescientists
November 10th 2009



5863 Comments


tight



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