The life of a record reviewer is largely depressing. There have been times that I not only want to gun down every A&R idiot in the land, but also run my long-sword through any bearded muso who has ever considered rhyming “fly” with “high”. Occasionally though, a faceless promo disc will utterly captivate me from the very first listen. (I say “occasionally”; really it’s just been the once.) From Atlanta, and named after band leader Andy Hull had read about The Smiths, Manchester Orchestra are my new favourite band.
Their cause is helped, of course, but the fact that they are neither an orchestra, nor from Manchester, as I always have gone for the difficult types, but with the average age of the five-piece merely nineteen, it is hard to believe that I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, their intensely-named debut album, has been written and recorded so early. I half-imagine them getting some sneaky help from Mum at homework time, or perhaps from the Followill brothers, or Thom Yorke. Or God himself.
A masterpiece of mature and self-aware songwriting, Virgin… is old-fashioned heavy rock’n’roll in places, but don’t be fooled; Manchester Orchestra will break your heart. Song titles such as Wolves At Night, The Neighbourhood Is Bleeding and I Can Feel Your Pain are not just the result of random wordplay.
Knowing that much of the band come from Southern preaching families, the unspoken back-story behind “# A disaster’s a disaster no matter which Christian language you drag it through #” is profoundly sobering, and when Hull sang “# When my Dad died, worms ate out both his eyes #” at a recent gig, it was a struggle not to invade the stage with a cup of tea and a hug.
Ultimately though, Manchester Orchestra rock. They raawwwwwwkkk. Wolves At Night slowly winds you up into some seriously undignified thrashing about, while Where Have You Been is singularly the most perfect example of a modern, multi-layered, tubthumpingly awesome, aggressively powerful and, once the wheeling chorus blasts off, downright loud tune since Debaser.
Manchester Orchestra are heading back to the UK soon (on their way to the pinnacle of the rock stratosphere) to support Kings Of Leon and BRMC, and if you don’t get there early, I’ll come round with my long-sword and have you write out the lyrics to Sleep 72 without crying. It can’t be done.
Oh, and by the way… they rhyme “fly” with “high” and it doesn’t even matter. Manchester Orchestra are that good.
words: Megan Vaughan
Manchester Orchestra tour the UK supporting Kings of Leon between November 30th and December 12th. Full tour dates are up on their MySpace.