For Fans Of
Having taken the alternative rock world truly by storm in 2011 with the tornado of delectable musical sounds that was Simple Math, three years later the fame and fortune of Manchester Orchestra rested on pulling out of a hat a full length bigger and better than the last. Were they to loiter in the safe zone and opt for regurgitating old material? Fans might have something to say about it, but equally so, if the band aimed for new and uncharted stars and fell short of fully realizing the vision for the record, you’d notice. ‘Cope’ is a mixture of both of these outcomes; the band aren’t really creating material that is a pinpoint-able progression of their talents, but there’ s still a glimpse of something larger that is not fully realised on the final product.
‘Cope’ beings with ‘Top Notch,’ and subsequently, a whole lot of theatrical reverb and a base-line drop, repeated for dramatic effect. The lead vocals and songwriting are, as to be expected, first class, and Andy Hull does a fantastic job of bringing the air of the record together with the instrumentals, with his commanding vocal performance alone. On ‘Choose You’ and later on ‘The Mansion’ a thick and staunchly baseline, characterised by noise, lots of fleshed out, rubbery noise, lays a yellow brick road for Hull’s minimalist lyrics.
Manchester Orchestra always had a way of saying the most profound things in the most succinct way, and ‘Cope’ is no different. On ‘The Ocean’ Hull sings in his standard twang ‘I let go, I give it to the ocean’ and that’s about as specific as he gets, and on ‘Girl Harbor’ the lyrics are typically straight to the point. It’s not the lyrics that let the album down, but that on slow tracks like ‘Indentions’ and even the title track ‘Cope,’ there’s nothing in the blended guitar/percussion ensemble or the drawn out, repetitious vocal melody, which affirms the unusual power of the lyrics.
Instead of adding something oddly haunting and unique to Hull’s songwriting, as on Simple Math, the body of the record is sorely lacking. Having said all of this, ‘Cope’ is by no means a bad record. Tracks like ‘Trees,’ ‘All That I Really Wanted,’ and the final, title track, consistently delivers the kind of humungous, thunderously ominous sound that truly makes ‘Cope’, at times, a satisfying listen.
There is an enormous amount of pressure on a band as hyped up as Manchester Orchestra to fulfill expectations entirely out of their control – the kind of pressure that is unfathomable to us mere mortals. It is always the nature of a band, finding themselves suddenly successful after the release of a particularly ground breaking record, to struggle with finding solid ground on the supplementary release. This being the case for Cope might make some fans second-guess Manchester Orchestra, but given time, Cope could be a record that grows on you.
2. Choose You
3. Girl Harbor
4. The Mansion
5. The Ocean
6. Every Stone
7. All That I Really Wanted
10. See It Again