Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Manchester Orchestra - I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child

Let’s get this out of the way as soon as possible: Manchester Orchestra is not an actual orchestra, nor are they a symphonic rock group in the mold of ELO or Moody Blues. Rather, they are a relatively new, relatively young pop-rock group with all sorts of potential.
The phrase “all sorts of potential” usually indicates that they’re not really all that good now. It’s like proclaiming a decent basketball player has “tremendous upside”: they may not be good now, but they will be eventually (or so we think). However, that is not what I mean at all. With this album, Manchester Orchestra show that, while they may have huge potential in front of them, they’re also ready for prime time right now.
The album kicks off in grand fashion. The opening to “Wolves at Night” may be the best moment on the entire album. It’s an absolute explosion of sound, with a nice, huge organ right in the foreground, while a distorted, slightly muffled drum set thunders on in the background. It is at that precise moment that you have been introduced to Manchester Orchestra…and now you know what they’re fully capable of.
Unfortunately, the entire album is not filled with songs laced with this kind of intensity and beauty. That’s not to say that the rest of the album is bad, but, after this initial display, it’s hard to not feel like the rest of the album is a bit of a letdown. Don’t worry…after 2 or 3 listens, this feeling will pass, and you’ll grow to love the rest of it, as well.
Their influences are sometimes painfully obvious, sometimes quasi-obvious, and sometimes not even close to obvious at all. There are moments in the course of the album when you can swear you’re listening to Death Cab for Cutie (“The Neighborhood is Bleeding”, “Golden Ticket”), and other times when a band’s name seems to be on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite articulate it (“Don’t Let Them See You Cry”, “Now That You’re Home”). Then there’s “Where Have You Been?”, which sounds like a song that Paloma would’ve/should’ve recorded.
One of the many stand-outs on this album is “Sleeper 1972”, a quiet song dominated by a slow organ line. It’s easy to dismiss during the first couple of listens, but be sure to give it a shot. The opening lyric of “When my dad died/The worms ate out both his eyes,” seems a bit odd, and that’s what turned me off originally. It just seemed to be strange for the sake of strange…perhaps a bit of shock value. Repeated listens, however, turn the song into one of the saddest, most genuinely heartfelt songs about the death of a loved one in a long, long time. By the time he sings, “I still see you/Inside of this God-awful house,” you can swear that you can almost see him, too. It is an absolutely gorgeous song, and begs for repeated listens.
This would be a fairly easy album to miss. It is put out by their own label, A Favorite Gentlemen Recording, and is not readily available in a lot of stores. There hasn’t been much publicity, and I very much doubt you’ll ever hear one of these songs on the radio. But this is an album that cries out, begging you to please track it down and buy it. And, if the album doesn’t cry out, then I am. Please check out this album. It is, without a doubt, one of the top ten albums of the year.
Check out this album. Check out this album. Check out this album.

Rating: 8.3

Essential Tracks: “Wolves at Night”, “Now That You’re Home”

Favorite Tracks: “Where Have You Been?”, “Sleeper 1972”, “Golden Ticket”

Check out their website here

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