Taking a heavy step backward
“Cope” is the new album from Manchester Orchestra, an indie rock band from Atlanta, Ga., led by singer-songwriter Andy Hull. It is the follow up to 2011’s “Simple Math,” an album which saw the band branch out from the straight-ahead sound of their first two albums, incorporating more texture and expanding their instrumentation. This more varied approach was well received by both fans and critics, suggesting the band might experiment further on their next release.
However, “Cope” is far from a successor in sound to “Simple Math,” devoid of strings, keyboards and acoustic guitar in favor of a wall of electric guitar sounds. In an interview leading up to its release, Hull said that the band “wanted to make the kind of album that’s missing at this time in rock: something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head every track … whereas ‘Simple Math’ was a different palate with each song, a different color, I wanted this to be black and red the whole time.”
This album certainly delivers on its mission statement. From the first chord in “Top Notch” all the way to the feedback that closes the album, the band relentlessly assaults your eardrums with unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. There is no ballad or acoustic track on “Cope,” the only real break in heaviness coming in the form of a few 30-second verses scattered throughout. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but Hull’s familiar voice and songwriting ensure that Manchester Orchestra fans will feel right at home.
While there are many well-written, catchy songs on “Cope,” it still feels like a step backward for the band. Intersperse these tracks with those from the band’s second album “Mean Everything to Nothing,” and it will be tough to pick out those distinct to this album. Both “Mean Everything to Nothing” and “Simple Math” had songs that were just as heavy as the ones here, but with more variation throughout the record. At times “Cope” feels like one 40-minute song, with tracks bleeding into each other bereft of any truly distinguishing features. There are exceptions, like “Indentations,” where the band turns down the distortion on the guitars and even introduces piano for the verses, but they are too few to make an impact.
In setting out to make an album that was heavy for it’s entirety, the band also created an album that has the same texture for its entirety, which results in a less engaging listening experience than its predecessors. There is a way to make a loud rock ‘n’ roll record that still harbors character in each particular song. There are a lot of good songs on this record, but the album could have benefited from augmenting the distinct features of each particular song.
“Cope” succeeds in producing some great tracks for the band to add to their live set, but disappoints as a whole after the depth of their last record.
3 stars out of 5.
DOWNLOAD NOW: “Top Notch.”