The Maccabees have been forging their own sound over the last decade, and their latest album Marks To Prove It confirms that things are only getting better. It’s their fourth album since releasing their debut in 2007 and it reflects an ongoing sense of creativity and desire for the guys from London to push their own boundaries.
The blistering title track, which was released as the first single, kicks off the album to a raring start and you can tell that there’s plenty of enthusiasm in store. But this is not a record that is fast paced indie rock the whole way through. Female vocal harmonies in the next track Kamakura provide a delicate touch that settles into Ribbon Road, giving off a totally different vibe to the opener.
Piano provides the cornerstone for a number of tracks on the album, making Spit It Out, Silence and Slow Sun sound just that extra bit fuller and, in the case of Pioneering Systems, more intimate. Other instruments are not shunned to any extent though. Perhaps my favourite thing about this album is how no instrument takes the spotlight. You cannot say about Marks To Prove It that it is a guitar-driven album, any more than you can say it focuses on vocals, or percussion (etc.). Everything seems at a state of perfect balance, and every element gets some time at the centre of the stage. When you listen to Slow Sun, for example, you’re greeted by a sombre duet between piano and trumpet, then the bass steps in the front with a pitch-jumping groove before the vocals take your attention.
Something Like Happiness is a positive track that’s given warmth through various layers of guitars, vocals and trumpets. It provides an important point of contrast for the album which largely has a sombre tinge to it. There’s loads of emotion injected into each track, but it’s not dramatised. The band has stated that the album aims to reflect the urban feel of their London neighbourhood, and I think this is certainly achieved, as there’s a sense of realism to the overall sound. With lyrics like “You’re not getting any younger/Soldier on for another year/Tell yourself you’re getting wiser/The truth is we don’t understand” from River Song, it’s an acknowledgment of everyday life and shared human experiences and emotions.
Marks To Prove It is an album that’s really easy to connect to. It sounds huge at times and intimate at others, but it evokes a sense of familiarity; you really get to know each of the elements as they recur over the forty odd minutes. This release is sure to entrench The Maccabees’ status as one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary bands.