In a time when indie-esque, hand-clapping bands like Bastille and American Authors dominate rock radio (along with Lorde, apparently), it seems as if straightforward rock is relegated to the edges. Well, Manchester Orchestra and Cloud Nothings released their latest full-length albums Tuesday – Cope and Here and Nowhere Else, respectively – and they are, simply, two no-bullshit rock albums.
NPR, in its streaming preview last week, describes Here and Nowhere Else as an album with a "blistering, careening forcefulness" and a "snarling ferocity." Words like "bash," "seethe" and "torrid" are littered throughout the album's Rolling Stone review. Pitchfork calls the album a "soundtrack [for] a grueling run or a pound-the-steering-wheel commute to work." That is all music-lingo for this is a freaking rock album. It leans punk, sure, but at its core is straight rock and roll.
With Cope, Manchester Orchestra is obvious in its pursuit of pure rock. "We wanted to make the kind of album that's missing at this time in rock ... Something that's just brutal and pounding ... something unrelenting and unapologetic," the band told Spin. It unabashedly abandoned the quieter, more subdued (even acoustic!) songs that broke up the band's previous albums, and went no holds barred into song after song of crushing rock for Cope. It is indeed reminiscent of a rock era past; just listen to the guitar hook of title song "Cope," which the band played on The Late Show last night:
There are no lulls on either album, no places to catch a breath. They live in the vein of punishing, relentless rock and roll. That means both albums get a bit repetitive and muddled by their ends, with one song's distorted guitars bleeding into the next's. But the overall effect seems to me purposeful – the albums are tiring, the way Manchester Orchestra, at least, and we'd bet Cloud Nothings would agree, believes rock should be.
This isn't to say that the prevalence of indie bands is somehow negative, and this isn't an "our music tastes are better than yours" sort of thing, either. Both Lorde and Cloud Nothings have the earworms we crave. Rather, it's a simple fact that the style of rock put out by these bands is a rarity, at least in terms of public popularity. The closest radio will come to this kind of no-frills rock will likely be the upcoming album from The Black Keys, but what we've heard from it already suggests a twinge of something else. The rock of Manchester Orchestra and Cloud Nothings is more of a relic at this point, but it's still worth hearing.