Review Summary: Andy Hull makes us love math again.
At the end of Mean Everything to Nothing
we were left with “The River”. For those of you who are fans of this particular album you probably remember the song well; the soulful, gut-busting croons of Andy Hull which were lain upon the soft guitar strums. There are two things you will learn when listening to Simple Math
over and over again; one is that it’s an entirely different kind of album and that’s a good thing. The other thing is that this just could be the most sincere music that Manchester Orchestra have crafted in the past 5 years. You won’t find the straight-forward rock tunes like “Shake It Out” and “The Only One’ but songs closer to “I Can Feel A Hot One” and “The River”. It’s not that Manchester has ditched their once classic indie rock sound but with Simple Math
they take the next logical step in refining it.
from my perspective is broken down into 4 main parts, the opener, and three separate, similar – 3 song sections. The opener “Deer” isn’t your ordinary Manchester song, bringing more of a spin to the slow side of Manchester it’s easy to see from the start what’s been in the works for the past 2 years. Next is the upbeat, familiar version of Mean Everything to Nothing
that will be familiar to quite a few. “April Fool” is found here, which while being the most accessible song on the album is also likely to be one the most overplayed ones. Quickly after that we can dive into the five through seven section of the album which is where you’ll find three of the strongest and most well written Manchester Orchestra songs to date. It’s almost as if “Pale Black Eye”, “Virgin”, and “Simple Math” were grouped together on purpose, but whether you play them in this order or backwards does not make a difference. The middle-section meld so well together that it’s unmistakable these tracks were put in this order. “Pale Black Eye” showcases Andy’s emotional vocals most predominately through that familiar near shouting he displayed on many songs on the groups previous release.
The chilling effect of the children’s choir in “Virgin” is going to end up being a love/hate relationship for most listeners. Depending on your mood it may strike with you as being a genius move for the band or maybe you won’t be able to take the song seriously; either way the portions of the song that don’t include said choir are exactly on par with the rest of the album when it comes to quality. “Simple Math” itself blows everything else Manchester has done out of the water. From the opening seconds to the closing notes it’s easy to see that it’s the most ambitious song that Andy Hull and co. have put their time into. It’s difficult to pinpoint whether it’s the string arrangements or the lyricism that makes the song but one thing is for sure, “simple math, believe me, all is brilliant.” The rest of the album is hit and miss. Towards the end you’ll run into “Apprehension” which sports again, some new sounds for Manchester but ultimately not bringing enough nuances to cause a stir this time. The closer for this album is a huge let down to the one from their previous album as well. Listening to “The River” we were treated to one of the best Manchester songs in their catalog but with “Leaky Breaks” something is just missing. It’s not the song structure or the vocals that prevents “Leaky Breaks” from reaching landmark status; overall it’s just not what was expected as the closer to such a striving album.
It’s not to say that Simple Math
is a perfect album but it certainly has its foot in that door. Manchester wasn’t looking to make Mean Everything to Nothing
part two but instead created an entirely different album comprised of a diverse sound and it worked; it worked really well. Fair warning is that this doesn’t hold the same blueprint that Mean Everything
did but something much deeper and much more brilliant. Let’s be honest you don’t need my advice just listen to Andy, for it is him who is brilliant.
Simple math, it’s why our bodies even lay here
Sinful math, the truth cannot be fashioned
What if you were crazy, would we have to listen then?
What is we’ve been trying to get where we’ve always been?
What if I was wrong, and started trying to fix it?
What if you believed me? Everything is brilliant.