Manchester Orchestra
Live at Park Ave.


3.5
great

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
August 11th, 2011 | 71 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tired of another round another wasn't really what I wanted so we slowed it down.

One particularly stringent way of testing an individual’s ability is to take away his or her greatest strength and observe how he or she performs in a given situation. For Manchester Orchestra that would be their livewire energy; the freedom to let loose and just rock the fuck out. Indeed, over the past seven years, the five-piece has been gallivanting around the hard-nosed side of the alternative/indie rock scene with an ease and swagger that even T.I and co. would admire. On Mean Everything to Nothing – the band’s final studio release before the release of Live At Park Ave. – the band saw it fit to up the already dangerously-volatile ante exhibited on I’m Like A Virgin, fearlessly delving even deeper into frontman Andy Hull’s teenage angst and running a great risk of self-ruin in the process. As Hull himself famously described it, writing the album was like putting “Pinkerton on steroids”, and was on all counts a purposeful and deliberate attempt on the part of the band to see how far they could go in terms of emotional nakedness before their audience raised its collective hands and announce that it had had enough.

Having already discovered their safety boundaries, it is thus no surprise that Manchester Orchestra usually decides to play to what they have decided are their main strengths whenever they appear as a live entity. Oftentimes relying on explosive, impacting one-two opening combos to grip their audiences at the beginning of a set, the band tends to only step away from the amp when the night is considerably older and the crowd is well within their control. Taken in that context, Live At Park Ave, the band’s contribution to 2010’s Record Store Day, comes across as a bit of an oddity, and not least because it opens with a series of gentle and carefully resonating acoustic strings and Andy Hull announcing in an unusually soft tone: “I am the only one that thinks I’m going crazy, and I don’t know what to do”. Mean Everything to Nothing and Live At Park Ave. may both begin with “The Only One”, but the similarity stops there. Gone are the beefy riffs and trademark machine-gun percussion that ran through all of the former, and in their place one finds instead a pair of acoustic guitars and a yearning desire to be loved in solace. Then, instead of launching into “Shake It Out” (which is also present here) as one would expect them to, Hull and co. choose to retreat into the soul-gripping melancholy of “Everything to Nothing”, which feels pensive and unusually spacious in its lo-fi form, quietly disappearing into oblivion before one even fully realizes that it’s there.

“The River” then has Hull going: “I think I talk to you best when I sing; I sing about almost everything”, effortlessly managing to get away with tossing out a phrase that, in the hands of a less evocative vocalist, might seem painfully cliché and devoid of innovation. “Sleeper 1972”, the only track not from Mean Everything to Nothing, is perhaps the most intriguing cut here. The only number to maintain some semblance of its form on the original studio recording, the song feels more like a particularly well-mastered mix than anything else, which makes its all-round effectiveness unexpected and thoroughly surprising but in the best of ways. It’s the kind of anachronistic set-up that seems designed to derail the entire project on purpose, yet somewhat ironically, this return to “normalcy” and non-deviation may serve as a safety net – an earth wire of sorts – and without it, it would be much, much harder to ascertain whether Live At Park Ave. would have left the pleasant aftertaste that it ultimately did.

But at the end of the day, it is worth asking if the songs, despite their drastic reinterpretation, keep their authenticity and grungy merits, and the answer is yes. In fact, this reviewer would argue that the ambient sounds, like the creaking of guitar strings on “Shake It Out” and the calm, yet warmly receptive crowd of the Park Ave. CD store, provide a degree of intimacy absent – but not missed – on the original studio recordings. The emotions on Live At Park Ave still run incredibly high, in spite of the toned-down vocal timbre, and the seven tracks present, skillfully selected, provide the listener with an auditory “wish you were here” postcard. Still, that rating up there is best thought of as a holistic reflection of the entire package, and an acknowledgment that a muted and toned-down Manchester Orchestra may, to some listeners, be worse than no Manchester Orchestra at all. What I call chaste you may call neutered, see?



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user ratings (10)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011


7320 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is not The Lion King, is it?

(The Lion King will be next - I promise. I just needed to remove some rust. Now we can all be certain
the next one will be awesome :D)

BigHans
August 11th 2011


26454 Comments


For Manchester Orchestra that would be their livewire energy; the freedom to let loose and just rock the fuck out.

^ that line makes me proud.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011


7320 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I should have said "just rawk the fuck out", eh Hans? ;)

It is my mission in life to become Staff so that I can drop the F-bomb at least five times in every review without having to be censored.

Tyrael
August 11th 2011


20972 Comments


Irving posts his review at the same time as me...

COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!

Anyways, well done brother. Pos.

BigHans
August 11th 2011


26454 Comments


yeah I just realized today that staff aren't censored, funny it took me that long to figure it out. But yeah, I average a minimum of two "fucks" per review.

pizzamachine
August 11th 2011


12572 Comments


YES AN IRVING REVIEW! woooooo

iFghtffyrdmns
August 11th 2011


7047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

IRVING! MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA!?
so proud of you right now kid.

this sounds awesome enough, I've gotta hear it.
beautiful review as per usual too

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011


16908 Comments


I'm proud of you for listening to Manchester Orchestra. You have come a long way.

Review is good too, solid enough for a pos. But I'm still waiting for you to blow me. Away. With your "epic" lion king review

Digging: Low Roar - 0

Tyrael
August 11th 2011


20972 Comments


I think he's reserving it for his 100th review...

5 years from now.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011


16908 Comments


goddamn it

iFghtffyrdmns
August 11th 2011


7047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hahahaha Tyrael

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2011


24090 Comments


neg cause youre such a LIAR irving

Digging: Mitski - bury me at makeout creek

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011


7320 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

But I'm still waiting for you to blow me.

Oooh, Sowing. Naughty naughty; you'll get caughty ;)

mallen-
August 11th 2011


1235 Comments


I'd say their greatest quality is the lyricism, but I feel you on the energy

Digging: Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Eko
August 12th 2011


2119 Comments


they just played Virgin on Letterman and it was amazing. they actually had a live children's choir.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2011


16908 Comments


i think thats an old episode because i've seen it

Kris.
August 12th 2011


12509 Comments


uhhhh

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1H802m6no0

thats from months ago

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2011


10576 Comments


is this park ave CDs in orlando? that used to be my store

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2011


7320 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

is this park ave CDs in orlando? that used to be my store

Yup it's in Orlando, FL. You lucky bastard - you didn't happen to be around while they were recording this, or were you? Why did you stop working there?

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2011


7320 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also, why a people so surprised that I listen to Manchester Orchestra? Am I not cool enough for Andy Hull? =(?



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