REVIEW: Manchester Orchestra – ‘Cope’


Artist: Manchester Orchestra
Album: Cope
Genre: Rock
Label: Favorite Gentlemen / Loma Vista

Most of my adolescence was spent exclusively listening to heavy music. If it wasn’t metal (or hardcore punk, post-hardcore, you get the idea), I probably wasn’t listening to it.

It wasn’t until college that I began listening to lighter music (or “indie rock,” whatever that term even means anymore), and Manchester Orchestra’s I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child was one of the first albums to spark that shift in my musical development. I don’t even remember how I discovered them. I was probably just looking through a festival line-up or something, wondering what the hell an orchestra was doing at Lollapalooza.

But what I do remember is being amazed at how the the record was able to pull me in without being overly loud or in-your-face. The songs felt so intimate and personal, and Andy Hull sang with such raw emotion that I felt just as connected to these songs as I did when I listened to my favorite metal records.

Manchester Orchestra has experimented with heavy sounds more and more with each subsequent album, from the screaming outro of “Shake it Out” to the throbbing distortion of “Virgin.” But they always seemed a bit apprehensive, unwilling to fully commit. And I can’t be the only person who found Simple Math‘s opening transition from “Deer” to “Mighty” to “Pensacola” a bit, umm, awkward, right? Right?! Cope, on the other hand, is an incredibly focused effort.

Cope‘s track list is smartly structured like any good live set, with two of the album’s heaviest and strongest tracks serving as the bookends. “Top Notch,” the album opener and lead single is not only one of the heaviest songs of the band’s career, but one of the catchiest as well. The album-closing title track is built on one of those riffs so powerful you can’t help but puff out your chest and throw your head back because it makes you feel like you’re breathing fire. Hey, come to think of it, the song does remind me a bit of Thrice’s “Firebreather.”

Anyway, Hull has said that the band wanted Cope to be “something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head every track.” It’s safe to say they accomplished just that, but they’ve avoided beating the listener into the ground by offering more variety than I think they’re giving themselves for.

“Trees” features a main riff so filthy that it may have derived from Georgia’s swampy sludge metal scene. Meanwhile, “Girl Harbor” has an infectious melody reminiscent of something from New Found Glory’s Coming Home LP, while Hull’s vocals are just as expressive as ever. The song’s lyrics center on a failed relationship, but perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest lines like “I’m running out of things that I can say / Nothing that I say is really helping anyway” helped inform the band’s “less is more” approach to the record.

Each of Cope‘s songs are direct, to-the-point, and while none of them extend past the four minute mark, they’re all memorable in their own right. Every song feels like it would have been a standout track on any of the band’s previous releases, but compiled into one LP, they make for the band’s most consistent effort yet.

Cope‘s lyrical content is dark but comforting. “Every Stone” touches on the difficulties (or impossibilities) of maintaining a relationship when your lifestyle isn’t conducive to that sort of commitment. The record is about coming to terms with the changes in our lives and difficult decisions we’re forced to make. To cope is to put the past behind us and move forward.

“See It Again,” the album’s penultimate track, is a slow-builder that chugs along until escalating into the perfect lead-in for “Cope.” And have I mentioned how wall-shatteringly heavy that song is? Oh, so I have. Well, it simply can’t be overstated.

Manchester Orchestra have taken on an odd trajectory with this album. It’s hard to even think of another band who has made such a concerted effort to become this much heavier and straightforward four albums into their career. But yeah, they pulled it off.

I’m not about to say it’s possible for an album to please everyone. But reading the range of artists and genres I’ve referenced throughout this review should tell you that I think Cope‘s appeal is pretty wide-reaching, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a fan of any type of loud rock music. Hell, I’d even recommend it to the closed-minded, heavy music-obsessed 18-year-old version of myself.

SCORE: 9.5/10

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