Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

by Hiro Master Rating:7 Release Date:2011-05-10

The general criticism of Manchester Orchestra seems to be that they should have made an album to establish themselves as the mainstream act that they deserve to be - but they haven't. This is the third record from the American alt-rockers, who seem to have got bored with the tried and tested heavy riffs and introverted lyrics of the previous albums and felt like throwing some other influences into the mix. In fact, this album is soaking in influences. A little like a pick-and-mix of musical genres, almost every song seems to be an attempt by the band to mix that genre with their own previous musical style.

The first track 'Deer' is a slow, melancholy song, with lightly strummed chords and what sounds like a steel string guitar. This is their country ballad. 'Pensacola' wouldn't sound out of place being sung in a Irish pub with group chants, a sing-a-long chorus and lots of references to being no good and being very drunk. This is their folk rock song. Meanwhile 'April Fool' has a 70s blues-rock groove to it. This is their 70s blues-rock song. In fact, stadium rock seems to be a big influence - as it seems to be with many bands at the moment. For better, it encourages the massive power chords, heavy drums and soaring choruses like on 'Simple Math', and for worse, it may very well have brought about the massively ill-advised child choir that features on 'Virgin'.

The indie world has always had a slightly difficult relationship with stadium rock - linking it to 'selling out' and uninventive music. But we've grown-up and stopped name-calling and we know that bands that can be mainstream and still produce great music. Unfortunately, however, we now we seem to be going in the opposite direction - so that if a band such as Manchester Orchestra doesn't affect the mainstream like we suppose they should questions are asked. Bands should be allowed remain just outside of the mainstream and not have the quality of their music called into question.

To be honest, this album isn't amazing, but most albums aren't. It's a pretty good album though, and I'm betting once the band have figured out which direction they want to go in, the next one is going to be even better.

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