Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math


4.5
superb

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
May 2nd, 2011 | 174 replies | 9,923 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I hope eventually you'll see what you've been turning me into; it's all for you.

Simple Math's lead single and title-track is one of the most unequivocally epic pieces of rock music released in recent memory. It begins in sombre territory, moving through doubt and conviction to a place of apparent and monumental resolution, all within the space of 5 minutes. As lead singles go, it was both a brilliant and incredibly dangerous selection: it was so good that expectations soared into a place that was quite arguably unattainable. But for one second, let's look at 'Simple Math' with a slightly more critical eye. It's orchestral, but it doesn't hold its strings aloft as a building-block, or as a gimmick. It builds, but rocks back and forth unpredictably. Its video was indisputably huge, but the world it was set in was grounded and gritty.

What I'm getting at is that approaching Simple Math the album with the attitude that it had better all be as clean as the cinematic majesty of its title-track is likely to reap mixed rewards, since 'Simple Math' the song is certainly the most straightforward cut of its record, the smooth brick in a wall of jagged stones. But there is something about these songs, something haunting, which beckons repeat listens in abundance. Simple Math is the type of album that, off the back of its sincerity and passion (much in the same vein as 2009's Mean Everything To Nothing, only greater), you will find yourself returning to over and over again, sanding down the rough edges and surprising musical jolts to get to the real essence of why it's all so great.

Where Mean Everything To Nothing closed with its own, inferior (although still superb) version of 'Simple Math' in 'The River', its successor shirks the responsibility of providing that anthemic last-track gratification in favour of the notably down-tempo 'Leaky Breaks', which - in spite of its possessing a crescendo of sorts - is nevertheless as much of an anti-climax as you're ever likely to experience, particularly after a string of songs as anticipatory as that between tracks 7 and 9. But the effect of that closer is not, even on first glance, disappointment. Quite simply, it's enigmatic; it only reveals half of itself immediately. One of the criticisms of Everything To Nothing was the simplicity of its second half, but here it's easy to pass off half the tracks as the opposite.

But really, much of Manchester Orchestra's southern rock is the same as ever; the dirty riffs of 'Mighty' mimic those of 'Shake It Out' but the tension has grown tenfold, the payoff being Andy Hull's declaration that "it's not like I was devious or boastful!" and a wordless chant which brings the song to a pulsating finish. The structure is evasive, the lyrics hard-hitting, the moments of unrestrained release just as fantastic as they ever were. It matters not whether a song is bubbling with terror like the sinister 'Virgin' (complete with eerie children's choir) or bouncing with apparent abandon like 'Pensacola' - the constants are those three things: sharp changes of direction, ardent story-telling and perfectly-placed climaxes.

Although situated largely in the seemingly mundane where its predecessor concerned itself (perhaps excessively) with abstract universalities, Simple Math might actually be the superior record. Its centrepiece, as with Mean Everything To Nothing's 'I Can Feel A Hot One', is the most explicit illustration of the band's overflowing emotion, but the same level and intensity of fire can be found even on its most flippant tracks. But it's all about the last line of 'April Fool', which up to that point has been a wall of heaviness difficult to penetrate. When Andy Hull sings: "I don't care if you and I will take the rest of our entire lives - I'm patient here for you," he's hoping you're in it for the long haul too. On close inspection, everything really is brilliant.



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user ratings (841)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • blacklight67 (5)
    'Simple Math' is the heaviest, and darkest record Manchester Orchestra have recorded, and ...

    C.F. (4.5)
    Manchester Orchestra solidifies their cult following with an overdue mature entry into the...

    Gerbilman (3)
    The much anticipated follow up to "Mean Everything To Nothing" thrills and disappoints in ...

    Matt Wolfe EMERITUS (3.5)
    Manchester Orchestra delight and frustrate with their third full-length....

  • SowingSeason EMERITUS (5)
    What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been?...

    Alxander18 (5)
    Manchester Orchestra deliver a home run....

    Blindsided (4)
    Andy Hull makes us love math again....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2011



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this was so easy to write

album is i think my favourite of the year so far

Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2011



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

http://www.columbiarecords.com/simplemath/

PandaNuts
May 2nd 2011



129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Such a good album. Can't wait for it to be the soundtrack to my summer.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



7244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is great but maybe not as good as I was hoping. To be fair I've only listened once though.

North0House2
May 2nd 2011



5617 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just unlocked it about 30 minutes ago.
This is incredible. How did they get so good over the past few years? I'm getting this the day it comes out.
I've gone through 6 tracks so far, I can't find a single one that isn't perfect.

letsgofishing
May 2nd 2011



878 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fantastic Review...Really fantastic.

So far this is about 145 times better than Mean Everything To Nothing.

Ok, there's a slight exaggeration there. only slight though.

PandaNuts
May 2nd 2011



129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh, and by "a good album", I meant "an extremely sincere and really fucking beautiful album".

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



7244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll probably review this too eventually. There's gonna be quite a few for this.

Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2011



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well I mean I've had this a while but just wrote the review in the last 20 minutes.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
May 2nd 2011



10556 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never heard this band but I take it that I should.




Where do i sign up?

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

DoubtGin
May 2nd 2011



6687 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

some of this is over the top, but it is better than their last one

Blindsided
May 2nd 2011



1871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review
Knott.

Digging: Exit_International - Our Science Is Golden

Tyrael
May 2nd 2011



20440 Comments


Knottastic review. Pos.

Gyromania
May 2nd 2011



14653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review, Knott. I really need to hear this.

Blindsided
May 2nd 2011



1871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I had my fucking review written since last Wednesday fml.

North0House2
May 2nd 2011



5617 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"I had my fucking review written since last Wednesday fml."
Knott's just a fast writer I guess.

nickobretto
May 2nd 2011



121 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fucking hell this is good. I have it as a 4 at the moment, but I can tell it is a grower. Apprehension is awesome.

North0House2
May 2nd 2011



5617 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm thinking this'll be a high 4/almost 5 for me. I'm going to wait until I get my hands on the physical copy and sink into it before I rate it, though.

Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2011



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I had my fucking review written since last Wednesday fml.


lol dont understand why this is a fml moment, ive known what i was gonna write for a while.

henryChinaski
May 2nd 2011



2457 Comments


Just listened to a few songs. Sounds incredible. Is this better than 'Mean Everything To Nothing'?

Digging: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream



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