Album Review: The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It

Marks To Prove It

The-Maccabees_Marks-To-Prove-It_album-artworkReleased August 3rd 2015

Words: Jimmy Gallagher

Since Colour It In some four albums ago, Brighton’s The Maccabees have not rushed but eased their name into the consciousness of the UK’s indie/guitar mainstream. Fortunately for them, and for us, they have not had to endure the media overkill suffered by so many bands (and, ultimately us again) that has taken place with regularity in their lifetime (See Ryan Jarman’s list of Indie Landfill).

The Maccabees have retained the twinkle in their eye and the spring in their step yet, they have built upon it rather than replace it and in doing so, seem more serious in some way. Adaptation does not mean transformation necessarily, and many bands would do well to follow in The Maccabees lead.

The Maccabees are far from predictable but they have remained resolute and loyal to their song structure, and in Marks To Prove It is no different. The album opens with a characteristic hurricane of guitars intelligently managed and synchronized to allow the title track to pulse around Orlando Weeks’ repetitive chorus. This song encapsulates the spirit of past successes such as No Kind Words and Feel To Follow.

Over time, the bands understanding of sound engineering and production has become quite astute. The atmospheric guitar, which is their lifeblood, wraps around each songs rhythm and is checked and contained thoughtfully by the consideration of production on this album, much like it is in Given To The Wild. It’s not ground-breaking but it adds more strings to their increasingly dangerous bow.

Ribbon Road is the essential reflection of The Maccabees evolution. Restrained yet free, this song bounces along a scenic track without fear of its journey being halted by any wrong-doing. Spit It Out is an outstanding composition with lyrical flurries celebrating England’s spinnaker sail’s as it rushes from calm to storm, sending the good ship Maccabee onwards to discover yet more of what the guitar can do when studied, as they have so clearly on this, their fourth album. This passionately compelling track may be the best in this collection.

One is at a loss to remember a more intriguing and loveable debut album by a British guitar band as Colour It In. With its whimsical song titles and charming naivety exploding in luminous paint bombs across it, both lyrically and musically, any following album would be severely scrutinised as a result. But it is important to note that this is a different decade. We all grow up – some call it maturing but in music, as in life, we learn and experiment and hopefully find ourselves. The Maccabees have found who they are. As much as we adored Wall Of Arms and Colour It In it is doubtful they would hold as much regard if they remained the same.

River Song and Slow Sun lack the vigour and vivacious eccentricity of Latchmere or Young Lions but the introduction of the respective organ and horns are less a bombardment of personality than a mingling of attributes. Enough to ghost under your skin and create a goose bump or two, sure to reappear on every listen.

Hugo and Felix White are less accustomed now, to trade punches as in Lego or Mary, but join forces to create a noticeably mutual sound in comparison to that of the early days. Something Like Happiness resists what the opening seconds threaten. It fortunately steers clear from the epic sing along and results in a celebratory romp that doesn’t induce vomit.

Weeks’ strained vocal fits nicely along the rising and falling riffs of WW1 Portraits. Never out reaching his capabilities, his simple imagery is often repeated, as is his way, and it works. Flickering piano keys and fiddling guitar chords see out the remainder of the record. A record, comparatively forgettable but, by today’s UK standards, utterly relevant and enduring.

Watch the video for Marks To Prove It here:

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