Manchester Orchestra - I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child

Alex Zielski 14/10/2007

Rating: 4/5

When you receive an album promo from an American band with an 'Alternative/Rock' sound, the alarm bells start to ring. You start to think they could be 'Strokes' wannabies, or fall in to the category that so many shoddy bands such as 'Good Charlotte' do.

In truth, Manchester Orchestra's debut album 'I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child' deserves neither of these labels. If the LP's title isn't powerful enough, then the opening track's wailing guitars, mixed with lyrics about 'not being able to find the wolves at night…have you seen baby girl, she's lonely' will surely make you sit up and listen.

'Manchester Orchestra' are a five piece who originate from Atlanta, Georgia, and the vocals, accompanied by the spiritual lyrics, on second track 'Now That You're Home', show that the band has a real musical flair.

Coincidently, the vocals at the start of the second track don't sound all that dissimilar to Britain's own 'Mumm - Ra', except they seem to have a purpose, and this is solidified by a meaningful beat and lively guitar riffs which combine to almost perfection. Hull's soothing voice box is compounded even more as the contrasting 'Queens of the Stoneage' bass line kicks in to provide an unexpected twist to the sound.

What's more impressive is that the average age of the band is a mere 19, and the fact that they have only been together for just under two years.

The two real gems on this fine LP don't appear, however, until midpoint with, 'I Can Feel Your Pain' and 'Where Have You Been'.

The former, is as if the band have decided to strip bear their sound and concentrate on Hull's vocals accompanied by a solitary acoustic. The results of the experiment are a mellowing delight. The faint whisper of Hull compliments the carefree strumming to produce an almost deep south American sound.

The powerful drumbeat midway through 'Where Have You Been' helps to split the track well, followed by echoing vocals which easily justifies the length of this moving piece of music. It starts like a simpler version of 'Sigur Ros' and is split down the middle with an outburst of 'Placebo' proportions.

Apparently the collection of songs on this album, lyrically, are spoken through a character, rather than Hull himself, which may come as a slight relief to the listener, especially on hearing the lines of 'Sleep 1972'- 'When my dad died, the worms ate out both his eyes…I cried myself sleep'. These disturbing lyrics, accompanied by a haunting organ, compound the nature of the bands metaphorical stance, in providing quite a solemn message, possibly about not being able to control life and death - 'What's really worth living, anymore'.

The sound then returns to a more upbeat tempo for the final third, with bass player Jonathan Corley's catchy rhythm providing the foundation for 'Alice Interiors'.

Penultimate track 'Don't Let Them See You Cry', which is only one and three quarter minutes long, doesn't really add anything and is probably more of a filler, and final track 'Colly Strings' probably adds one acoustic based song too many, and, sounds more like a poor mans 'Two Gallants'.

But we can forgive them that. For a five piece who's average age is so young, I'm Like A Virgin Loosing A Child', reeks of maturity, and one can only expect a bright future.