11 Aug 2015

The Maccabees / Marks To Prove It (album review)

The British indie powerhouse band The Maccabees have returned after a few years with their latest offering Marks To Prove It. While their previous album Given To The Wild provided escapism and vastness, Marks To Prove It is based on the closer to home area of Elephant & Castle in Central London. The record has a sophisticated edge and stands out as unique.

They burst back onto the scene, literally in terms of sound, with the loud and fast paced title track Marks To Prove It as the first single. The rough snare of the guitar, twanging riffs and machine gun drumbeat creates a chaotic atmosphere reflective of the busy London streets. It has a very gnarled feel to it setting it completely apart from the soft floaty sounds of Given To The Wild. 

This tougher sound is also present in the darker Spit It Out. It starts with a slow tempo and soft vocals but builds up to explosion of guitar and drums, and the repetition of the lyrics “spit it out” with an angry like chanting quality. It’s a song with progression from something quiet and subtle, becoming very loud and filled with rage.

The album still has its more toned down moments. On Slow Sun the stripped back piano with Orlando’s soft vocals creates a sound that is very dreamy. It has a domesticated theme with the lyrics “waiting up for you, cup of tea for you, that’s real love” “now more than ever, romance in shit weather, the ordinary glory of real love” creating a very relatable atmosphere, that has a simplistic element of beauty. It makes me think of an epic romance in an ordinary location of a London flat.

Silence and Pioneering Systems similarly implement more stripped back instrumentals to create a simplistic and calming sound that feels relatively unaltered. Rather than forming an ethereal wonderland, they remind us of environments we’re familiar with and would fit in well with many people’s own surroundings and ways of life. The faint sampled sounds of trains, cars and chatter in Slow Sun and what sounds like a woman giving directions on Silence assures the Elephant & Castle base of the record.

Something Like Happiness is an explosive and euphoric track with a joyous and loud chorus. The blaring trumpets, epic riffs the twinkling of piano gives the song an uplifting youthful energy. The build up of layers of sounds creates a brilliant energy making this one of the high points of the record. It has an anthemic quality that The Maccabees recreate consistently on all of their albums similar to songs such as X Ray, Pelican and Love You Better.

WW1 Portraits has some of The Maccabees strongest song writing yet littered with poetic metaphors. The tune strangely reminds me of a fairground ride giving an old fashioned innocent quality to it. The sentimental theme and the structure reminded me vaguely of the much lighter cutesy early single of theirs Toothpaste Kisses but it has infinitely more depth and complexity. The initial medium tempo raises and peaks with flares of loud guitar riffs and vocals filled with passion. It’s a song that strikes me as fascinating and thought provoking with a rich intensity of sound.

The Maccabees have managed to produce another brilliant record with a lot of character to it that manages to stand out as distinctive in the Indie Rock genre.  The long wait for new material has definitely paid off, and “Marks To Prove It” is a strong evolution of the band’s work.