From the youthful undertones of 2007’s Colour It In to the award-winning Given To The Wild in 2012, The Maccabees have become known and adored for crafting melodic, emotionally-charged indie songs. Given To The Wild was particularly spellbinding, a movement miles apart from their earlier works. It was a bold and naked journey through heartbreak, death and existence; it was where The Maccabees really came of age.
But where does one go when near perfection has been reached? The Maccabees’ answer to that is sewn within the flesh of their latest album, Marks To Prove It. Dubbed by The Guardian as “the last of the great guitar indie bands,” The Maccabees do little to reject that label with this album. It’s a guitar-soaked racket box, amplified by songs like “WW1 Portraits” and the title track. Coming full circle, The Maccabees have rediscovered the virtuoso guitar work that initially plunged them into the limelight. Lyrically, frontman Orlando Weeks still knows how to feel, as he whispers out “drinking when you’re drunk to chase down the evenings” on the eerily sour “Kamakura”. Once again, Weeks has a lot to say about love, and a lot of it is said on this record.
Marks To Prove It is more delicate than the first single release suggests, with piano and softer instrumentation prevalent throughout. The deeply sad “Silence”, to which guitarist Hugo White lends his vocals, captures a Noah and the Whale-like sobriety. Likewise, the bass-heavy “Ribbon Road” channels a darker, more submerged sound compared to the group’s earlier work. The fluctuation between the gentle and the prickly is the cornerstone of the album, and is beautifully captured by the plummeting guitar drives of “Spit It Out”.
However, the album’s muted tone confuses itself in some instances. For example, the jittery twists of “Something Like Happiness” fall between their first and second albums, awkwardly placed in relation to the rest of the record, especially when wedged between wonderfully candid and brassed out “Slow Sun” and “WW1 Portraits”. The Maccabees’ cutie-pie story-telling style of indie-pop is best left on their first album. Nostalgic in one sense, but completely perplexing in the other, “Something Like Happiness” excludes itself from the mood of the rest of the album completely.
No, one shouldn’t tie albums together with such a close comparison: each record should be judged on its own merit, yes. But, as Marks To Prove It shows, The Maccabees are caught between a step forward and a step back. Some songs suggest a new vision coming to light, as in the cinematic “Pioneering Systems”, “Dawn Chorus” and “Spit It Out”. But some suggest a regression to their earlier years: sounds that have seen their time in The Maccabees’ story. All in all, Marks To Prove It is a very good album. It carries the feeling, fire and the fury of a real guitar band. It just could have been so much better.
Release: 31st July 2015, Fiction
For DrunkenWerewolf Magazine: http://www.drunkenwerewolf.com/reviews/maccabees-marks-to-prove-it/