Listening to Manchester Orchestra’s first official studio release, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, feels at times like a tremendous relic. I first discovered the band more than 6 years ago, when I went to see Say Anything in May of ‘07 at my least favorite venue in this entire country, St. Petersburg, Florida’s Jannus Landing (hatechu).
Surprising as it may seem now, they were the openers, and because I was woefully late, I only got to see them play one song. I was mostly only familiar with “Where Have You Been?” – also the song they closed with that night. But it was a captivating rendition of the song, and enough to hook me in as a fan.
As a sign of how fickle the music industry can be, they opened for Meg & Dia, then Saves the Day, before the headlining act of Say Anything. I remember the show distinctly not just for the fact that it took place in ostensibly Florida’s worst medium-sized venue, but also because halfway through the show, someone threw one of those big ass gray plastic trash cans (because of course they did), and also because someone threw gum in my hair and I had to have it cut out. To this day, I can’t recall a single song Say Anything played that night – just the fact that I got gum in my hair and was pissed off for most of the night. That was a primo tour to see them on, too, because it was pretty much the height of their …Is a Real Boy popularity.
Also, as my one word review of Like a Virgin (“Yes!”) might have led you to believe, this is still my favorite ManOrch release. I say it’s already a relic because the band no longer aspires to sound like this anymore.
With the release of Mean Everything to Nothing, the band aimed for an edgier, more decidedly straightforward alt-rock sound. On Simple Math, they took their foot off the collective pedal, finessing their sound to a point that felt like an overproduced record made up at times of limp and tepid sounds.
I’m thankful to report, though, that if the interviews Andy Hull has been doing lately hold water, the next record will be a return to a “raw rock” sound. Not sure if they consulted Showbread first, but such is life.
That’s what I like best about Like a Virgin. As implied, it’s an untainted, unvarnished album. It feels much more careless and loose than its successors. As an album that was written and recorded by talented teenagers, songs that reek not of Natty Ice and cheap cigarettes, but rather maturity, like the aforementioned “Where Have You Been?”, opener “Wolves at Night,” “Golden Ticket” and others are that much more impactful.
For me, Like a Virgin is still the quintessential Manchester Orchestra album. In the face of the amount of music that’s been released in this genre – both the good and the downright atrocious – it’s aged surprisingly well.
From their first studio album, this is Manchester Orchestra’s “Where Have You Been?” –
Standout tracks: God, where to start? Press play. That’s all.
Weakest track: “I Can Feel Your Pain” doesn’t do anything for me anymore.
RIYL: Indie rock, alt-rock. Bad Books, Kevin Devine, Brand New, Colour Revolt, All Get Out. Favorite Gentlemen releases.