Album Review: Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

By on Monday, 9th May 2011 at 12:00 pm

“What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been”, sings Andy Hull in Manchester Orchestra‘s returning track, ‘Simple Math’. It’s the title song from the Atlanta band’s new record and it’s ruddy brilliant. Starting slowly with Hull’s serene yet rough voice over a simple guitar melody and building up to one of the most powerful moments in the third effort from the rock group.

As far as third albums go, it’s hit and miss out there. With ‘difficult second album’ syndrome seemingly gone, it’s left to the third to either cement or lose a band’s place in music. It’s by no means an easy task, just ask The Strokes or suffer Pendulum’s Immersion. On the other side of it, when done well, a good third effort from the likes of Kings of Leon (‘Because of the Times’), Muse (‘Absolution’) and most recently Arcade Fire (‘The Suburbs’) can see you leave niche behind forever. So what is it to be for Manchester Orchestra with their new offering, ‘Simple Math’?

From introduction track ‘Deer’, it’s clear to see that there’s not been a huge change in the band’s influences or style. Influenced by what sounds like guitar heaven, Andy Hull seems to be in poetic conversation with the listener, inviting you into MO’s world for the next 45 minutes. Lyrically, little has altered. Hull leads the listener down a poetic maze, winding in his alternative world in which he questions every aspect of his life from the challenges of touring to his own marriage. Musically, ‘Simple Math’ is the halfway point between the fresh yet rough-round-the-edges ‘I’m Like a Virgin Losing Her Child’ and 2009’s hugely successful ‘Mean Everything to Nothing’ in it’s shiny sound and powerful chords. ‘Simple Math’ is certainly a brilliantly produced album by Dan Hannon (co-producer of ‘Mean Everything’, ‘Rocket to the Moon’) and every change in riff and tone is easilly picked up, meaning you can really feel the frequent power changes in Manchester Orchestra’s sound. Each track sounds like it could easily fit in to the already strong MO live set, adding even more soaring lines wherever they’ll fit.

Highlights come from the start, when second track ‘Mighty’ really kicks in with soaring guitar and vocals in a fantastic harmony and ‘Pale Black Eye’, which just exudes the kind of spirit that the Atlantans have made their trademark from day one. It’s not all brilliant though. At times, it can be difficult to define tracks on this album from ‘Mean Everything’ or ‘I’m Like a Virgin Losing Her Child”s overspill and last track ‘Leaky Breaks’ is nothing if not confusing and possibly the worst track the band have written to date. Aside from this, it could be plain sailing for the band. It’s not 2011’s rock version of ‘The Suburbs’, but it will certainly see Manchester Orchestra succeed in trying to get to where they may have always been, fantastic indie rock ‘n’ roll.


‘Simple Math’ is out today on Sony.

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