"Mean Everything to Nothing" by Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra
Mean Everything to Nothing

Canvasback Music
2009

Review

When Manchester Orchestra are screaming over loud guitars and rapid fire drum beats, they are one compelling band. When things slow down, we run into some trouble. But still, the uptempo tracks are so good that the album is recommendable just on the strength of those tracks alone.

By now I'm sure you've heard the catchy single off this record, "I've Got Friends". I can see why they picked that song as their first single. It is by far the catchiest thing on the album, followed by "Shake It Out" in a close second. This album is a bit frustrating to me because the first half is so good! In the first half of the album you get great rock song after great rock song. The second half slows the pace way down and the energy just falls flat for me - with a couple of exceptions.

Lyrically, Manchester Orchestra are coming with some slightly abstract lyrics that bring plenty of religious themes to them. I wasn't surprised to find out that Manchester Orchestra has toured with Kings of Leon. When I say abstract, I mean abstract. What the heck does it mean to "Feel a Black Man" in your teeth? From the track "In My Teeth":

I felt a black man in my teeth, what a way
Jesus is coming, he acts my age, and he always looks the same
I said a good seed was on your break wasn't a mistake anyway
Well Jesus is coming better act our age
And clean everything
And make a seem

..so there you have it, religious themes over WTF lyrics. But again, when the tempo is up it all works perfectly well. Singer Andy Hall sounds a bit like the Silversun Pickup's Brian Aubert but maybe a bit more normal sounding.

Although "I've Got Friends" may be the best choice for a single, my favorite track on the album is "Shake It Out". I loved the energy on this song. Andy Hall is pleading the lyrics out, almost begging them even. His intensity is matched by the frantic guitar, drums, and bass. I also liked how towards the end of the song, he's managed to "Shake It Out" and theres this almost moment of peace where the music slows down and Andy reflects on having accepted things right before the tempo picks it up again.

The second half of the album doesn't work so well for me. Maybe the slower songs are hurt a bit by the fact that all the bangers come out right up front. But I was all riled up after the first half! I wanted more of that! Then the tempo slowed waaaay down and suddenly I thought I was listening to a different band. Of the songs on the second half of the record, "Tony The Tiger" and the titular "Everything To Nothing" were the most listenable. I am not even going to score "100 Dollars" because that is barely a song and sounds a lot like sound check.

So you might ask, why am I recommending half an album? Well, actually, it's more than half. The uptempo stuff is great and although the slower stuff didn't work for me, it might work for you. I just hope that they put out an entire album of uptempo sounds next time.

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The Only One (02:39) 4
2. Shake It Out (05:11) 5
3. I've Got Friends (04:57) 5
4. Pride (05:47) 4
5. In My Teeth (04:42) 5
6. 100 Dollars (01:50) 2
7. I Can Feel a Hot One (04:19) 3
8. My Friend Marcus (03:41) 4
9. Tony the Tiger (03:09) 5
10. Everything to Nothing (05:37) 4
11. The River (11:33) 3