Over the last few years, if you had asked me about The Maccabees, my immediate reply would have been something along the lines of “yeah, good, but they’re not favourite band material really, are they?” Don’t jump the gun, folks; the new LP still doesn’t put them in my personal top five, but as the sound of a proper grown up band leaving the indie schmindie schtick behind I would certainly take someone seriously if they said they were in theirs. The fact is, in this day and age you might be a little surprised to see the London five-piece reach album number three. It’s a cut throat industry where fantastic debut followed by underselling sophomore effort means almost certain relegation to has-beens or never-weres, and it would have been easy for The Maccabees to fall into that trap, had their underselling sophomore effort actually been shit, and the follow up, Given to the Wild, even worse. Quite rightly, who dares wins, and the band have cultivated a proper sound and plastered it all over their third record. And it’s BIG.
Ushered in by a softly-softly intro, the first thought is not one of familiarity. It’s missing the punchy kick of the band’s previous two albums, but it works wonders to draw you in and wonder what the hell might come next. You just know this is a different beast altogether. What does follow is ‘Child’, beginning not too far away from the sound of Foals‘ second record, Total Life Forever, with brass parpings and a smoooooth Orlando falsetto. There’s been comparisons to Chris Martin in Orlando’s voice, but quite frankly that’s just silly. Think of the Maccabees as like the glittery velvet to Coldplay’s damp cardboard. Or something.
‘Child’ really sets the tone, and what follows repeats the winning formula without sounding old or overdone. When ‘Pelican’ flies in, stuck in the middle of the record in a moment of genius, it’s just an absolutely tune, providing just enough of a change in tempo to smack your ears right back to interested. Other highlights are the grand, dramatically baroque ‘Ayla’, the dense, (almost) electro of ‘Go’ and the Wild Beasts-esque ‘Slowly One’. But it’s album closer, ‘Grew Up at Midnight’, that really takes the gravy and runs off home with it. I have a right soft spot for a good closer, and a strong one can save even the most dire of records for me. The opening two minutes already cements the track as one of the LP’s best, brimming with personality and great lyricism – “sheltered in our own worlds, we’d watch the rain right through, we grew up at midnight, we were only kids then” – and as a love song it’s brilliant. When it explodes into an epic finale it just gets better and better. Lift the needle, start again. You might have to give Given to the Wild just a little more time than Colour It In or Wall of Arms, but as the refrain of ‘Pelican’ warns, “nothing comes easy”. This is a really fine record, and in the end, boys and girls, there’s nothing more to say than that.
By Joe Abbitt
Dance Yrself Clean