‘Cope,’ Manchester Orchestra

“Cope” earns two out of five stars.



Parker Munson, Writer

I like to think that when God gave humans the idea to create the Internet, he had indie rock bands in mind. Since the advancement of home recording technology and the popularity of social networking, indie rock music has never been the same. What began as a struggling underground scene has since been able to blossom into a thriving mainstream collective of artists — still disenfranchised from the most popular forms of music, but able to put bread on the table. For me, no band better fits this category than Manchester Orchestra.


While strolling through the iTunes store in 2006, my eye caught the perplexing album title, “I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child” and I was hooked in an instant. It was more than the title; it was frontman Andy Hull’s nasally, impassioned vocals and haunting lyrical imagery stacked upon catchy rhythms, distorted guitars and punchy keyboard melodies.

Over the years, Hull’s voice and lyrics have remained as poignant as they were to begin with, despite some major evolvement. The band's sophomore release introduced us to an even more disgruntled Hull who shouted his way through, “Mean Everything To Nothing.” Then came “Simple Math,” arguably their most diverse yet incoherent album, sending fans into a bit of tizzy as to whether or not these dudes still had wind in their sails. Three years later MO releases “Cope.” Their intention this time around? To make their most unapologetically heavy rock album to date.

They’ve set out to accomplish this goal by cramming every track with exceptionally flat guitar tones and a seemingly unending cacophony of noisy drums, altogether missing the mark. The raw energy they were able to muster up for “Mean Everything To Nothing” is nearly completely depleted, and all that’s left in its place are overproduced rock tracks, each one more monotonous than the one before — certainly not topping, “Simple Math” or even competing on the same plane. If “Cope” came to pound us over the head, it stepped up to the plate without a bat.


Hull has neglected to pull from the same spine-chilling bag of lyrics he’s employed before, letting them fall second to the music, perhaps hoping that it could pack the punch he couldn’t put into words. And that would have been awesome, if it had worked. Instead, we’re left with 13 songs that propose no more solutions for how to deal with the hardships of life than the empty black and white message stenciled across the album cover.

The only track really able to deliver is also the last on the album, “After The Scripture.” This song captures what MO fans know and love about Hull’s live performance: It’s intimate, moving and a little bit eerie — but most of all, it’s vulnerable. Hull speaks to spiritual doubt and reconciliation in a way that’s universal. Backed by nothing more than a slow, haunting guitar riff, it suggests that when it comes to making do, sometimes we have to go it alone.

MO has been one of the hardest working indie rock bands out there for quite a while, and it’s tough to watch their sound devolve into what seems like a more generic brand of alt rock. They’ve got all the makings of a groundbreaking indie rock band, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste. “Cope” might not capture the promise they’ve shown in the past, but something tells me they’ll find a way to carry on.

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