Raising their slightly less-than-traditional Dixie flag, Atlanta’s alt-rock group Manchester Orchestra comes out with guns blazing on their latest, Cope. Full of viscous guitars, distortion, and head-banging drums, this album leaves little room to question the band’s raw power and ability to punch right through the speaker cones of your listening devices.
While the album is nearly oversaturated with heavy instrumental chord progressions, its message, however the listener interprets it, is consistent and direct throughout. Within almost every track, vocalist and songwriter Andy Hull adjusts the momentum and location of dynamic shifts with a composure that counterbalances muddy guitar and percussive elements provided by the rest of the band. In the single “Top Notch,” Hull sings: “We all believed in ghosts until you walked into the wall,” exemplifying Cope’s lyrical message. With shades of bitterness, each song’s energetic surges and lulls invoke a sense of emotional instability and self-doubt.
A respectable display of democratic songwriting, Manchester Orchestra implements subtle power shifts aboard an ever-moving locomotive engine that hums and transmits graspable impressions through its tracks. Some facets of Cope such as “Girl Harbor” and “Indentions” offer momentary relaxation for the listener; these downturns in energy and tempo prevent motion sickness of any sort. Quieter moments amid an otherwise raucous work, lines like “I don’t want to believe but I want to believe you / I don’t mean what I say but I say what I mean to” (“Girl Harbour”) broadcast sarcasm slyly through a paradoxical lens. Here, truth is found in conflicting emotions.
Alternate time signatures and punk-inspired rhythms on “The Ocean” and “Every Stone” pull away from homogenous, droning distortion as softer verses rapidly peak and decay with the corresponding collisions of vocals and guitar riffs.
Without surrendering to angst, these bursts of diversity capture the intensity of brief, human encounters. They highlight a veneer of jaded feelings toward both the significant and fleeting indentations we leave in the skin of others. The title track rounds out these ideas on a definitive note. Floating feedback and a heavy emphasis on change can be heard: “I hope if there is one thing I let go it is the way that we cope,” Hull concludes.
Cope maintains an in-your-face reputation that has earned the group opening gigs for alt-rock giants such as Cage the Elephant and My Chemical Romance. Moving through the course of their career with a steady inertia, Manchester Orchestra represents a collective of refined hard-rockers who are still making waves despite the growing trend toward automation in music.
Article by Conner Smith