To state the obvious—Manchester Orchestra’s new album Cope is loud. Really loud. Front to back. And that’s exactly how they planned it.
If you’re a fan of Manchester Orchestra, you need to know this up front because if you’re looking for a repeat of the dynamic variation found in 2011’s Simple Math, you’re bound to be disappointed. For Cope, Andy Hull and crew have eschewed their more introspective side for 11 tracks of raw, loud, alt-rock. This is not a record for brooding, but for head-banging. Know this before you buy the record.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying this like it’s a bad thing. What MO does on this record, they do quite well. Pick a song—any song—and it’s a good one. Seriously. This is the best album for the randomizer button I’ve heard in some time. Not to say I didn’t have some favorites among them. The bookends, “Top Notch” and “Cope,” are both destined for long-term appearances on live show playlists. Likewise, “Every Stone” and “All I Ever Wanted” struck a nerve. But as far as what the songs are, there’s nothing that could be considered a misstep.
That being said—it’s difficult to penalize Manchester Orchestra for putting out an album with no dynamic breaks when they’ve told the media they did this on purpose. So the only way to gauge it is in how it feels when you play it through—and let’s just say 11 loud tracks, no matter how awesome, can get tedious after the first four or five. As in, play the first track, and you’ve got the vibe for the whole record. No letting up. It seems great on paper, but in the real world where real ears need a break once in awhile, everything gets kinds of muddled. And that’s the unfortunate, because the songs themselves are actually quite good—their identities just tend to get lost standing back to back, with nothing to give them context.
So the way I see it, there are basically two ways to get the most enjoyment out of Cope. The first is to take it in small doses (hint: use the randomizer button). The second is to play it all the way through after you’ve had a really, really bad day, alone in your room where no one can see your head-banging. At the end of the 38-minute record, you’ll feel much better.