Mean Everything To Nothing – Manchester Orchestra


Andy Hull is incredibly talented. The frontman and creative force behind Manchester Orchestra isn’t even old enough to rent a car, but already has one great album (2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child), and a fair share of side projects under his belt. With that in mind, Manchester Orchestra’s new LP, Mean Everything To Nothing, just doesn’t seem to be able to pull everything together and be as good as it could be. All the pieces are there, they just don’t seem to be fitting together tightly.

If every song on the album was as good as the opener, “The Only One,” than Mean Everything To Nothing would be the clear favorite for album of the year in 2009. The track gets the album into full swing in a matter of seconds with sliding guitar and frantic clapping. The lyrics ring sharp; an angry rant from the son of a pastor. The track is as hard as any Manchester Orchestra track to date, but is only the beginning of a heavy shift.

“Shake It Out” follows and blows it out of the water with regards to anger and edge. It begins what could be seen as an attempt to enter the same sonic realm of Brand New’s most recent album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. Since the bands are peers and have toured together, this notion isn’t incredibly far fetched. The same feel exists on the following tracks including “Pride,” which features a slow heavy riff that’s nearing Black Sabbath-y metal.

Mean Everything To Nothing‘s shortcoming is its lack of focus. While the songs may trend on similar ground instrumentally, they really feel completely unconnected. Hull has claimed in interviews that this album is deeply personal in the songwriting process even likening it to Weezer’s classic Pinkerton (which is blasphemous). The songs are slathered in angst, but there never seems to be any clear reason why Hull is so upset. While venting anger through music is perfectly acceptable (if not encouraged), if there’s no real justification it just seems like hollow whining.

This lack of clarity can mostly be attributed to Hull’s lyrical chops on this album, which are far from sharp and not up to his usual standard. While Hull’s voice warbles with emotion as well as almost any vocalist, lines like, “I felt a black man in my teeth,” from “In My Teeth,” don’t seem to make any sense or relate to anything at all. The song “100 Dollars” is another case of poor unclear songwriting. It literally just seems thrown on the LP on a whim with no relation to anything else.

If you really want to grasp Mean Everything To Nothing give the track “My Friend Marcus” a listen. This mid-tempo track is catchy, and has a very unique feel, bordering on slowcore. But it’s also riddled with heavy-handed lyrics like, “His father touched more than spirit, now he can hardly sleep.” The lyrical rhythm is great, but the words seem cluttered. It’s the type of song that could get stuck in your head, but you’d be slightly agitated that you weren’t hooked on a better tune.

However, amongst the clutter Manchester Orchestra proves it still can pull off an amazing song, such as “I Can Feel A Hot One.” The slow ballad built around a wonderful little guitar lick is absolutely beautiful. It’s so perfectly controlled, with Hull doing a brilliant job of emoting a tender set of lyrics. It’s this breathtaking type of song that this band is capable of that puts the rest of the album in perspective.

Mean Everything To Nothing is an incredibly frustrating album. At different times it displays everything to make a fantastic record. It feels poised for greatness, but simply comes up short. Manchester Orchestra is brimming with potential, here’s hoping the band’s next LP fully delivers on it.

Review Score: 7.7


1 Comment

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