Release Date: Apr 21, 2009
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop
Indie upstarts rock out while pondering the Big QuestionsManchester Orchestra’s moniker is particularly misleading: The band hails from Atlanta, Ga., not The Smiths’ hometown, and string arrangements are nonexistant in their five-piece American indie rock. But the name isn’t altogether ironic. The original impulse imagined a proletariat city aspiring to something beyond its means—a reasonably apt symbol for band leader Andy Hull’s thematic concerns, expressed in coming-of-age songs where serious young men with fluctuating self-esteem grapple with the outsized vagaries of girlfriends and/or God.
Review Summary: Manchester Orchestra head in a new, louder direction with Mean Everything To Nothing, showing further evidence that an indie rock classic is not beyond them. But this isn't it.It didn’t take long for Mean Everything To Nothing to really snatch my attention. Thirty seconds into opener ‘The Only One’, rosy-faced Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull deliriously blurts “I am the only son of a pastor I know / Who does the things I do”.
The whole genre of power pop seems to have fallen off a cliff somewhere between the Foo Fighters’ second and third albums. There are only so many times you can hit those triumphant platitudes and sing-along choruses without getting formulaic and just downright cheesy. Of course guitar rock will never fade. U2 still makes shitty albums built around monster riffs and bands like New Pornographers and Arcade Fire make more intricate melodies which build and secede around their amplified and distorted guitars.
Mean Everything to Nothing, the sophomore album by Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra, is fine. That is, there’s nothing wrong with it. Andy Hull, who shoulders most of the song-writing duties in addition to playing guitar and keyboards, is clearly working hard to put out the best product he can. He delivers every lyric with an earnestness that indicates his dedication, and every ingredient of a great rock record is present.
One of the tactics that we develop as teenagers is the ability, triggered by wanting to grow up and get out way too fast, to render somewhat ordinary feelings in overwrought terms. Andy Hull, the barely-able-to-legally drink driving force behind Manchester Orchestra, is one such kid. He formed the band in the Atlanta suburbs in his junior year of high school, and the resultant album titles signal his desire to transcend his youth with verbiage: There's the purposefully paradoxical, mildly shocking, and certainly cheesy I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, or the 2005 EP You Brainstorm, I Brainstorm, But Brilliance Needs a Good Editor (apparently, album titles are excluded from said editing).