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Manchester Orchestra – “Simple Math”

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The truth is that two plus two should equal four. As Atlanta indie rock band Manchester Orchestra intimate with the title of their new single, that’s “Simple Math.” In the world of mathematics, things that should be “are.” Logic is always correct. It’d be much simpler if the real world was that way, too.

But as we all know, it isn’t. Nothing is as simple as math. Portraying this fact precisely, the character that lead singer and songwriter Andy Hull creates during “Simple Math” seems torn between a belief in “the truth [that] cannot be fractioned” and a hurricane of doubt in his own assumptions.

Hull’s character asserts that the only reason he “even got here” is simple math—the way it had to be—but follows immediately with a chorus, evolving during each iteration, that asks the most difficult, illogical questions a man can ask. Questions, in fact, that many have asked, hoping to receive an answer: “What if I’ve been trying to get to where I’ve always been?”

“What if it was true that all we thought was right, was wrong?”

In confronting these timeless conundrums through his lyrics, Hull takes a great chance. Five-minute midtempo wanderings through the streets of introspection, assisted by distorted guitars and soaring string arrangements, are much more likely to be mocked as melodramatic and hackneyed than celebrated as genius—even with Manchester Orchestra’s history as a lyric-based alternative rock band that like to take chances.

“Simple Math” could be a bit too spontaneously sincere for fans of the sardonic tone of 2009′s Mean Everything to Nothing to swallow. This time, Hull doesn’t “just need one hundred dollars”—in fact, money won’t help at all. Only truth will, and truth is dangerous territory for rock bands to explore.

Fortunately, Manchester Orchestra’s formula for the song relies just enough on genuine emotion plus profound rumination. And that equation adds up to an enjoyable track.

It’s simple math.

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