Live at Cockpit on Monday, 11th February 2008
Hailing from Georgia, the Manchester Orchestra are an annoyingly young band of incredibly gifted musicians playing emotionally charged indie with a dark edged sugar coating. Their album, I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child, is incredibly rich in texture and sounds, and the songs are so well written it hurts. After supporting Kings of Leon towards the end of 2007 the band are now on tour in their own right. Manchester Orchestra's debut is a heavy hearted - though not heavy handed - record. The ideas and themes are from the very lower echelons of human emotion, yet the stylings and structures of these songs make for essential listening. Whilst not breaking any ground in terms of experimentation, and whilst parts of the record do seem a tad emo-circa-2002, the substance here is enough to cast aside any stylistic concerns. For a band to produce an album as technically impressive and emotionally mature as 'I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child' at such a tender age is an incredibly exciting sign for their future. Welcome into your lives the Manchester Orchestra, a very special band indeed.
Andy Hull is an unassuming frontman. Hiding his youth behind an impressively hairy, bearded face, he's an old pro at this audience-eating-from-the-palm-of-your-hand malarkey. Mesmerising everyone with his fragile songs of heartache, loss and troubles, he could just be the next Conor Oberst. Neither from Manchester (but Atlanta, Georgia) nor an orchestra, the precocious quintet have been playing together for a couple of years and though they may have slipped under the radar the last six times they played here, such anonymity is now surely over - or soon will be.
Although none of them look old enough to buy a lottery ticket, fans packed into the Cockpit hang on to every word Hull utters with the kind of devotion reserved for the most cultish of bands. Manchester Orchestra had better get used to it. 'Wolves At Night' splices haunting organs with a dirty big blues rhythm and a tenderly twisted vocal from Hull, a frontman whose voice is the exact midpoint between Billy Corgan, Michael Stipe and Wayne Coyle. 'Now That You're Home' sounds like Death Cab For Cutie roping Jack White in for vocal duties and is the owner of an open chord riff big enough to ground planes. 'Where Have You Been?' brings the pace back down somewhere near to earth, its alt-country stylings fitting Hull's broken voice to a tee, whilst 'Golden Ticket' is a skyscraper of a song; its Coldplay-esque guitar sounds lifted away from similarities to that band with an inspiring Corgan-influenced vocal and ambitious song structure. With songs that fidget somewhere between the brooding nature of Brand New, the quivering vocals and lyrical style of Bright Eyes and the prodigious Canadian indie coming at us in droves, the likes of 'I Can Barely Breathe' and the gorgeous 'Where Have You Been' sound as though they were written by a band with a lot more years behind them. Though Hull is undoubtedly the ringleader, tonight the stage is brimming with talent - and more than enough evidence to suggest that this is only just the beginning.