Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull’s trilogy of tales from a 17thcentury sailor who comes back from sea to find his wife cheating on him with his very own brother comes to an end this record. It arrives following a tantalising four-year wait since the second album The Eventually Home was released.
The album starts with ‘Blame’, and the sailor’s decision to kill his wife, documented in the second album, is reversed when in a spur of the moment decision he chooses to murder his brother instead. “The judge asked me again/why was it him and not her?”. It’s far more than just a song in what is far more than just an album. It has ups and downs, twists and turns, and gasps that only the best novels include. ‘Barely Bit Me’’s lyric “oh mother/I noticed one of the men on the cross was allowed to come down” enduces shivers, exposing the inner thoughts and hopes of a man sentenced to death. The lyrics are as open to personal interpretation as ever, and Hull himself has said that they apply to his own life too, and mean far more to many people than just this sailor.
Musically, the album revisits the darker depths of the first album The Bitter End in songs such as ‘We Were Made Out Of Lightning’. Hull’s echoe-y guitar tones fill an expansive space and his wonderfully identifiable vocals are versatile enough to portray a murderer as well as front US emo rockers Manchester Orchestra. Despite this darkness, ‘When I Met Death’ is soaring and frighteningly powerful. It’s the standout track and feels like a really brilliant track even when removed from this deep-rooted story.
When you put this album in the context of the trilogy, and see the final two tracks named ‘Memories From The End Parts I and II’, you naturally expect a thrilling finale of cacophonous noise and action and the character crashing and burning. In reality, it’s an extremely understated end. For much of the album it feels like this is the winding down of the story, not the big bang at the end, and if you listen to all three records in order (I wholeheartedly recommend it), The Eventually Home is where most of the action actually happens. Ideas of resignation to death occupy The Church Of The Good Thief. As ‘I Wait For You’ shows the sailor musing “we don’t need anything to go wrong”. I was expecting the big finale, but it seems like The Church Of The Good Thief is more than that. It’s the inner thoughts of a man who knows he is going to die, and that produces this mellow, plodding finale. On the surface it seems like an anti-climax, but if you get inside the character’s head it makes all the sense in the world.
It’s hard to judge this album on its own merits when it fits so perfectly into this trilogy, but it’s everything that the finale should be, and a brilliant musical record on its own as well as a story.
You can buy The Church Of The Good Thief @ rightawaygreatcaptain.bandcamp.com
Words by Will Richards