I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child
As that annoying Plain White T's song pollutes the airwaves for the umpteenth time today, it's probably fair to say that the original concept of emo - artists like At The Drive-In, The Dismemberment Plan and Rites Of Spring to name but three - has finally had any notion of feeling or life sucked out of its indignant paws by the suited and booted corporates. No longer an outlet for disillusioned, frustrated youth to channel their thoughts into a musical address; now just another radio friendly cash cow to serve up to 14 year olds and factory workers worldwide.
Atlanta quintet the Manchester Orchestra fall somewhere between the two bases. With an average age of just nineteen, one would be hard pushed to find a band as hardcore - musically at least - as the likes of ATDi. Occasionally there is a feeling that they want to push the boundaries a little, and at times this works a treat, not least because they actually take a turn further along the left field towards Spinto Band, Annuals and Tapes'n'Tapes new wave country. For the rest of the time however, they also seem to want to be mentioned in the same breath as Conor Oberst and co. - not necessarily a bad thing of course - and while some of the finished product is commendable such as closing epic 'Colly Strings', there is also a tendency to stray into wet territories such as those inhabited by the aforementioned lot singing about Delilah.
No, what really makes 'I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child' stand out from the rest of the crowd is the fact that despite some of the vocals coming across as being whiney, the musical arrangements at least take on several different spheres, from 4x4 rock workouts to orchestral ballads.
Likewise, the lyrics aren't as cringeworthy as you'd probably expect from a bunch of middle class American teenagers either. 'The Neighborhood Is Bleeding' for example shows a remarkable awareness and insight for someone so young, vocalist Andy Hull tipping the plaintive iceberg with the line "I heard that I was close to dying/Ivs and dirty drips for the cause" to great effect.
Elsewhere, 'Where Have You Been?' and 'Alice And Interiors' rattle the same cages as Saves The Day did back in the.day while 'Sleep 1972' is possibly a pointer to where their long-term future may lie, sounding like a younger, less constrained sibling to The Decemberists orchestral musings.
The most difficult decision for the Manchester Orchestra is deciding which side of the fence they wish to align themselves to next, as 'I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child' may be too thoughtful and well-structured for the emo fraternity yet too emotionally detached for the indie crowd. Whatever the outcome, there's no denying these Mancs have potential.