„Spit it out“, the fourth song on the fourth album of the Maccabees is the key to the band’s sound and it is truly an astounding piece, especially for a progger-soul like myself.
According to interviews, the Maccabees had amassed an incredible number of songs without any direction where to go. As fans might know, this is not a band to bundle together inconsequential songs just for the sake of it. These guys need a (musical) theme and a goal and it is all the more pleasant that this unusual ditty – which starts like an early Genesis-song and then pushes those proggy elements into the background upon which the usually strong-willed hymnal melodies of the Maccabees can unfold – was the beginning of a clearer picture.
At its core, this band is as youthful and energetic as they were in times of „First Love“ but this album especially untangles ideas and experiments all around. In a way, this is a possible turning point for the typical sound of the band because songs like „Silence“ (with Weeks only heard in the background vocals) or „River Song“ are new and might even tempt new fans to compare them to Arcade Fire (less so) and Elbow (much so).
Maybe, though, Weeks’ one-off-projekt Young Colossus plays a bigger role in the new adventure, as „River Song“ sounds like a continuation of the vocal-experiment that Young Colossus (and its Graphic Novel approach to rites of passage) encaptured.
Maybe the fact that being weird and trying out new, unusual things has created a very devoted fanbase and reached over the target-group of sole Maccabee-fans. And maybe that reaction to this truly unique project helped them realize that there is always a way to reinvent yourself. Then again, even „Given to the Wild“ (with the very perky “Pelican” and even some goth elements in “Unknown“) and before that “Wall of Arms“ had new elements that hinted at progression and evolution (and ambition).
Still, „Marks to prove it“ is especially bold with a jazzy „Slow Sun“ (and that theme continues on „Dawn Chorus“) and if “Given to the Wild” was a somewhat naturalistic, flowing (as hinted with the Goldsworthy artwork) and paternal- and maternalistic theme, “Marks to prove it” sounds like the move to the city, all of its influences and the speed of evolution within. It never sounds unlike the band but they manage to give a first impression that feels unlike and then slowly develops into the gorgeously flowing melodies and layers we know them for. Especially atmosphere plays a big role in this new album and gives Orlando Weeks some breathing room in which the band is the central focus. And we all know (or will get to know) that even though Weeks’ nearly surrealistically angelic voice is a major part of the band’s sound, the whole picture, the chaotic waterfalls of melodies within the slow rivers of tender guitar lines is what makes the band as awe inspiring as they are.