The Maccabees

Marks To Prove It

Written by: TL on 22/08/2015 13:17:13

The Maccabees, apart from being a faction of Jewish rebels in the Bible, is also - as known to many - the name of a by now seasoned London band. Having debuted in 2007 with the album "Colour It In", the group reached a high mark with 2012's exotic and atmospheric "Given To The Wild", positioning them for a time at the very front of the constantly busy competition that is British indie rock. Three years have passed since then, however, and the band has now come back with a follow-up in the form of "Marks To Prove It", which came out at the end of July and at first seems to change things up a bit.

Where the band's effect-laden guitars meshed perfectly on the dreamy and completely immersive "Given To The Wild", "Marks To Prove It" opens with its title track seemingly set on cultivating a different set of qualities. The texture of the band's basic instruments, and the way the sound of their guitars and bass bristle and contort against the restraint of the amps, both seem at the receiving end of some love on the track, which takes a surprising change of tempo from a speedy verse to a psychedelic bridge. Both the guitar and the singing of frontman Orlando Weeks toy around with the same signature melody, until trippy organ keys make like the sound of falling bombs while the song moves towards its end.

Considering that it is the title track and that it is placed up front, you would think that this marks a new direction for the band. But oddly, this impression dissipates almost immediately, as things seem more familiar and carefully interwoven already on the following, more down-played "Kamakura". "Ribbon Road" proceeds with a bubbly, escalating riff in the back which brings to mind Bombay Bicycle Club and on that note, the piano in the single "Spit It Out" feels highly similar to Arcade Fire on "Neon Bible" or "Suburbs". Curiously though, there's not a horn (or a horn-like effect) in sight on the album's first half, which wouldn't be so odd if it weren't for how forcefully one comes in on the instantly noteworthy "River Song". Along with the following "Slow Sun", these latter two offer perhaps the most recognisable and wholesome songs on this album, and particularly the latter has a cohesive sense of movement to its patient progression that makes it stand out.

Overall though, there's a prevailing sense that The Maccabees sound, while it still eventually gets to you with a sense of hypnosis and enchantment down the stretch of this new album, is not as instantly impactful or as deeply immersive as what they managed last time around. Part of the reason could be that it does not have as strong hooks to rally around, as Weeks' otherwise eternally pleasant and soulful singing, does not deliver as striking melodies as previous highlights, such as "Pelican", "Feel To Follow", "No Kind Words" or "Can You Give It". And simultaneously, there are bits in "Ribbon Road" and "WW1 Portraits" for instance, that even sound a bit recycled from something you have heard before.

Conclusively, there are a few cracks in the armour this time around for The Maccabees, but listeners should still not be too deterred. "Marks To Prove It" still holds up to band's standards for rich arrangements, soulful singing and having an endlessly ear-pleasing production - Even if things don't add up to quite as obvious highlights as the band has managed on previous occasions.

Download: Marks To Prove It, River Song, Slow Sun
For The Fans Of: Arcade Fire, Bombay Bicycle Club, Maximo Park, Foals

Release date 31.07.2015
Communion / Fiction Records

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