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Following up from what an album which was full of angst and could have taught those Emo kids a thing or two about being Emo, The Orchestra are back with their new album “Simple Math”. Despite “Mean Everything to Nothing” bearly making a blip on the radar, these young guys from Georgia have big things waiting for them on the horizon.

“Deer” takes the kick-off an immediately takes control of possess with a gentle, country inspired acoustic track which really eases you into the album. It is an unusual way to start the album especially given way that the  song conflicts against the introduction of “Mighty”. Having said that as I have listened to the album more it has really grown on me.

“Mighty” starts with what can only be considered a cheesy 80s rock intro however as the song progresses it feels as though it is aiming for a stadium rock sound. The vocal takes some getting used to, it is a little clunky in some ways. The bridge feels a little flat and predictable at first however after a while the construction of the song begins to make sense. The chorus really saves the song which otherwise would be a forgettable song and this fact really is testament to the dedication of the song writing.

By the time the album reaches “Pensacola” I am a little confused about the varying tracks and how they are intended to fit together. The lead in to this song is horribly predictable and on the nose however the song gets better as it progresses. I am a little confused by this songs inclusion on the album. I feel like I have heard this song a thousand times on mainstream radio (there’s something 2000’s Green Day about parts of it). There are aspects of this song which work, if any this is that must skip track on the album, however I can understand that others will like this for the same reasons I don’t love it. The chorus is really quite enjoyable and fun, just needed to trim the crusts off the sandwich for me I guess. To this point, I think that that the vocal and the bands sound really carries the song writing at times and is a little bit of a surprise given what I was expecting. It’s like ordering the Peking Duck Pancakes at yum cha and then you bite into it and get a mouthful of cucumber and wrap, just not quite what you were hoping for.

“April Fool” immediately pulls the album back in the right direction with a bang of Orchestra anger which is a really catchy and fun song with a big chorus. The vocal takes over what is otherwise a pretty simple song and turns it into a powerhouse. It’s often said that less is more, well this songs agrees with this statement and contradicts it in the same breath with a super-sized serving of Hull’s tonsils. This song could easily slot right into “Mean Everything to Nothing” and is the tightest song on the album as it is very direct in what it is attempting to achieve and does it in bag fulls (yes that sentence doesn’t make sense, but I don’t care).

“Pale Black Eye” is a throw back track in terms of vocal sound from the past. Violins are a lot more prevalent on this album and combined with the guitar work on this song builds into ball of emotion with builds to a stadium rock chorus. This song is no “Shout it Out”, it is just so different from what they have done previously, it’s more matured and constructed with millimetre precision, where as previously it felt like the songs were written to fit around the vocal and not the other way around. Either way the songs work, but it’s nice to see a talented band explore with their song writing and find new ways to reinvent their brand without having a producer rebrand the sound. The guitar work is delicate and deliberate allowing the song to build and the vocal to flow.

The chorus effect which is used through “Virgin” has a big sound which with the horns that give this track a familiar feel. The use of children for backing is something that hasn’t been used for many years now and combined with the heavy guitar sound which runs through the track makes for a dark and angry piece of work. This takes me back to Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education”. The lead vocal is normally the core feature of Orchestra songs however this song really breaks that tradition and gives great contrast with the various vocals used. By this stage we are right into the meat of the album and the edges may be a little fatty but I am pretty sure this is a rib eye fillet.

“Simple Math” was released as the lead single from this album and displays a different approach from MEtN. This is a really elegant song built on the back of a more main-stream sound with a smoother vocal from Andy Hull and an injection of violins through the chorus. The mood of the track is not as intense as on previous releases however it is still not lacking in emotion which builds with the power of the guitars through the song. Despite being a change in direction for Manchester this is evidence to a mature approach to song writing and is a real power ballad in the Orchestra sense of the word. It has taken quite a few listens, but this is a really powerful track which pulls you in a lot of different directions.

“Leave It Alone” delivers that gentle Orchestra beat with more and more voilins being used, which is not over used as it really suits the bands sound. This song really sells the modesty of the sound that these boys from Georgia can deliver, which gives a sense of intimacy that other bands could only hope to deliver. “Leaky Breaks” is a great closing song in a similar vein that “505” was for the Monkeys as it leaves you wanting more and floats off into the background. This is probably the biggest screwball thrown by the Orchestra’s pitching rotation. With a smooth vocal Hull, takes us on a journey and leaves us with some soothing “oohs” to end the album.

The review took me some time to write because initially I started out writing a “meh” review as the album took some getting used to. The big punch that “Mean Everything to Nothing” seemed to be missing and there was a lack of flow between the songs especially at the start of the album. There is a distinct attempt to stretch the sound of the band and to explore its possibilities, there are some softer tracks which really are great on their own, but feel a little out of place next to some of their colleagues at times despite being great songs on their own. It is a genuinely good album without requiring any coat tails of previous albums to keep it aloft.

ALBUM RATING: Lacking in continuity but not in substance


Here is a taste of the title track from Manchester Orchestra’s pending release (10th May):