Mean Everything To Nothing
You’d think that two albums in, we’d have got over the fact that Manchester Orchestra are neither from Manchester (in north west England or anywhere else) nor an orchestra.
But we haven’t, so this review’s not going to change that now. What MO are is a rock & roll band from Atlanta who released their first LP, ‘I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child’, in 2006, and toughened up they’re rocking Americana after tours with Brand New, mewithoutYou and Kings Of Leon. Caleb Followill said that MO reminds him of KOL. A cynic might say that sharing the same management company helps form Followill’s opinion, although lines about being “the only son of a pastor I know who does the things I do”, and ‘Youth & Young Manhood’-style grooves on ‘The Only One’ are probably the Kings’ thing too.
Like KOL, a scary God lingers in some of MO’s lyrics, such as the fervid grunge of ‘In My Teeth’ and ‘Shake It Out’, where singer Andy Hull says: “I felt the Lord begin to peel off all my skin.” MO aren’t averse to the occasional epic manoeuvre either - ‘Everything To Nothing’ is a whole song of them - but lacklustre single ‘I’ve Got Friends’ is evidence of too much reading of Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’ rather than the King James one.
Andy Hull, MO’s singer, actually thinks ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ sounds like Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ “on steroids”. And while there is occasionally a similar fuzziness and the brief ‘100 Dollars’ (“I am fine! I just need 100 dollars!”) has a Rivers Cuomo-like humour, Nirvana and Foo Fighters are the more apparent alt. rock reference points - especially in the way MO blend light and dark. ‘My Friend Marcus’ is musically cheery grunge-pop, but lyrically alludes to some sinister subject matter: “[Marcus’] father touched more than spirit/Now he can hardly sleep.”
Manchester Orchestra could certainly end up headlining the arenas they’ve supported KOL and Brand New in, but hopefully not at the expense of the opaque lyrics and musical intensity that will win them many fans in the first place.