When Manchester Orchestra released Simple Math in 2011 it was a turning point for the band.
Having already built-up a small, but consistent back catalog Manchester Orchestra went in a more accessible direction with their sound. You could tell based on some of the tracks; Virgin and Mighty, the band were flirting with a heavier 90s grunge-like sound.
On their latest effort entitled Cope the band have deliberately gone in a heavier direction all while retaining that core Manchester Orchestra sound we’ve all grown to love over the years. The newer direction is evident on first track, “Top Notch”, a fuzzy and well polished track that feels very similar to that of the track, “Virgin” from their last effort minus the children’s choir.
Sadly, the new direction the band have opted to go in has some obvious flaws. The major flaw being there just isn’t any kind of variety or depth on their latest record. Simple Math was a complex record, one moment it was a rock record, the next a pop-rock ballad record and sadly in comparison Cope falls flat.
The lack of diversity is one flaw and the other is the production. This record sounds overproduced and uninspired. The fact every song sounds like it features the same down-tuned palm-muted power-chords as the track before it, makes it feel like you’re listening to one big song.
While I wouldn’t go as far as saying Cope is completely hopeless (because it’s not), I wouldn’t say call it the bands best work either. At its core, this record is a simplistic rock record without any deep underlying complexity. It is as simple as a band like Manchester Orchestra can get and sadly it resulted in a record with low replay value.
There are positives if you overlook the production and fact the record sounds like one big song.
Front-man Andy Hull sounds better than ever, his unique fragile and child-like voice lends itself to heavier styles of music quite well. I think the band excel when they write heavier songs as they demonstrated on Simple Math. Although it is obvious Hull is still finding it difficult to write happy songs, come to think of it, I can’t name one Manchester Orchestra song that is even remotely happy.
The instrumentation aspect whilst not veering too far from the formula we are used to hearing be used, there are some moments on this record that are quite simply awesome.
The track, “Choose You” has some pretty fantastic guitar work, the intro seriously sounds like something the Queens of The Stone Age would right. That up-tempo fuzzy guitar riff is really catchy.
The opening Weezer-esque guitar riff on track, “The Ocean” and subsequently during the verses is genius, even if the rest of the song is a bit of a bore-fest.
The slow build-up to the almost guitar soloing during the end of the track, “Trees” was also a nice touch. It was probably one of the more diverse tracks on the album even though those recurring elements from the previous tracks do find their way into it.
Besides the track, “Top Notch” my favourite track on the album was without-a-doubt the stoner-grunge infused ending title track, “Cope” arguably this is probably one of the heaviest tracks the band have ever written. The ominous feedback, the thick looming bass-line and Hulls trademark vocals make this track. I am actually quite disappointed this is the last track on the album, if the rest of the album sounded as ballsy as this track, I think it might have resulted in a better record.
Besides the occasional surprise guitar riff, the album very much feels mostly one-dimensional and disappointing. I know the band said it was going to be a simplistic rock record, but I honestly expected more from the band. Maybe my expectations were just too high after Simple Math, maybe the band didn’t want to write a complicated record and if that is the case: they succeeded. If the goal was make to make a diverse and interesting album: they sadly failed.
Rating: 8 out of 10