Release Date: May 6, 2011
Reviewed by Chris Johnston
Manchester Orchestra have found what works for them, and totally scrapped it. That’s par for the course though, as they’ve never really remained static in one foundation for too long. They like to change it up…A LOT. But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Chances are, it’s another notch in the bedpost of one of modern music’s most talented and enchanting bands.
It’s almost haunting, how Manchester Orchestra’s music can stick with you even when you haven’t listened to it in some time. But I guess that’s the beauty and the purpose. To make a lasting impression. Every new release from them feels like a new beginning almost. Like you’re meeting them for the very first time…Again. You can’t expect to revisit an old friend and relive old memories. Not with Manchester. New elements make their way into Simple Math, proving yet again that Andy Hull is a master of his craft, and the undisputed Maestro of American Indie Rock. The children’s choir on “Virgin,” the string suite on title track, “Simple Math,” and the incredibly-fun-to-shout-out-loud-in-public chant in “Pensacola” all give you reason to bow to the majesty that is Manchester Orchestra. But what I find to be the most incredible part of this record is opening track, “Deer.” It’s just Andy, and it’s deeply personal. Most notably: “Dear everyone I ever really knew, I acted like an asshole so I could keep my edge on you, ended up abusing even those I thought immune….” And even better, to the fans with: “Dear everybody that has paid to see my band, it’s still confusing, I’ll never understand, I acted like an asshole so my albums would never burn…” Andy Hull’s voice cuts through so well on this one. And not just sonically, but emotionally. You hear him sing, but the most impressive thing is the ability to actually FEEL how proud he is, but yet how humble he’s become over the years. So needless to say, it sounds like Hull has made peace with himself, and made peace with the scene. It almost seems like a confessional to an extent. And this is the reason, amongst many others, that Hull and the rest of Manchester Orchestra are to be taken seriously. They get it. They love playing music, and all curtains are down and all masks are off. This is the Manchester Orchestra that has emerged from years of trial and tribulation. This group of musicians has taken a hold on who they are and what they create. And now, out of the ashes, a new monster has broken free. That monster is Simple Math.