Review Summary: I would rather have a punctured lung than not be able to listen to this album
It is always especially tough for me when I see someone or something with talent not live up to its full potential. Whether it be a person, a TV show, or a band this has always sort of been a pet peeve of mine. When I used to play football in High School I used to get mad when our star players would take plays off in crucial times because even though I was not as talented I would have never done that under any circumstance. I got mad at NBC for not realizing that “Friday Night Lights” is one of the greatest TV shows ever and should never be canceled. And finally I got mad at Manchester Orchestra for their first two full length albums “Nobody Sings Anymore” and “I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child”. I was mad at the band because even though they had loads of talent but never seemed to realize their potential. On “Mean Everything To Nothing” Manchester Orchestra realize their potential by correcting the flaws that plagued their first two full lengths and it results in one of the best albums I have ever listened to.
One of the major flaws for me in Manchester Orchestra first two albums had to be the songwriting. To say that is drastically improved on “Mean Everything to Nothing” maybe one of the biggest understatements I have heard since “Kim Kardishan has a butt on her”. Just about every song on here has a memorable one liner, breakdown, or breathtaking chorus. While the first two albums got a P.H.D. in the self loathing department “Mean Everything To Nothing” seems to cover every single emotion that we know as humans beings: whether it be the brutal honesty of “The Only One”, the angriness and bitterness of “Shake It Out”, the thankfulness of “I’ve Got Friends”, the sarcasm of “100 Dollars”, the “this is the saddest thing I have ever heard” of “I Can Feel A Hot One, the moral outrage of “My Friend Marcus”, and the spiritual ness of “The River”. The album never seems to be too whiny rather content in expressing what the band feels they need to express in a very indirect way. Manchester Orchestra’s lyrics have gone from the brutal honesty seen on “I’d Rather Have” to the constant symbolism found in the breakdown of “Pride”. To put this in perspective compare the change in songwriting style that a band like Brand New had from “Deja Entendu” to “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me”. While the lyrics are less direct they are definitely more thoughtful, symbolic, and emotional and this adds to their genius and how improved Manchester Orchestra’s songwriting is from their first two albums.
Another flaw for me had to be the overall instrumentation. Not so much that the members of Manchester Orchestra could not play their instruments but that all of the songs seemed to sound the same and not really flow together. If you listen to “Nobody Sings Anymore” you will have a tough time differentiating between the songs from about the fifth song on. This is not a problem at all on “Mean Everything To Nothing” as this can be seen on the guitar riff chorus on “Pride” the haunting feel of “I Can Feel A Hot One” and the soft-loud formula executed to brilliantly on “My Friend Marcus”. The songs also flow together smoothly on this album and it gives it more of a cohesive feel. The abrupt to ending to “Shake It Out”somehow leads perfectly into the electronic intro of “I’ve Got Friends” and the roaring end to “I’ve Got Friends” somehow leads perfectly into the soft verses of “You, My Pride, And Me”. The diversity in type of songs on “Mean Everything To Nothing” and the overall flow of the album make it a drastic improvement from the bands first two albums.
If you listen to the bands first two albums you can see while they had the occasional brilliant song they could rarely string more than two or three good songs together. Manchester Orchestra have improved on this as well as EVERY SONG on “Mean Everything To Nothing” is at least in the “superb” range. That is amazing and something we rarely see pulled off in the “age of the single” that we live in. I could go into great detail about how every song on this album is superb but if you have taken a listen to this album than you probably already know this.
I am no longer angry with “Manchester Orchestra” because they have reached their full potential on “Mean Everything to Nothing”. Instead of quitting on key plays like the football players on my team, Manchester Orchestra exceeded when their backs were against the wall. Instead of canceling their shows and calling it quits they kept progressing and evolving their sound. Manchester Orchestra have reached their full potential by improving their lyrics, changing their sound, and creating great songs overall.