In the densely populated soundscape of European indie rock, The Maccabees have registered minor yet promising blips on the radar. Over the past several years, this London-based quintet has skated by on comparisons to The Kooks (2007’s Colour It In, a debut of unremarkable Brit-pop nouveau) and Arcade Fire (2009’s Wall of Arms, produced by Markus “Neon Bible” Dravs) while struggling to define themselves as a musical entity outside the rotating realm of “been there, heard that.”
Fortunately, their third studio album is a giant leap forward for the band in terms of sonic exploration and artistic maturity. Given to the Wild is The Maccabees’ most adventurous work to date, spanning 13 tracks and mixing distorted psychedelia with soulful, complex layers of brass, percussion, and guitar. This record finds the group embracing a new sound that is richer, deeper, and infinitely more exciting than its predecessors—an expansive, beguiling opus that draws inspiration from musical peers such as Coldplay and Kate Bush, yet refuses to lose its own unique autonomy in the process.
Given to the Wild is a welcome departure for these young lads, (too cliché) as they abandon their generic roots for a more intense and cerebral aesthetic. A two-minute intro perfectly sets the tone: one long, continuous drone carried in waves by lead singer Orlando Weeks’ ghostly falsetto. With each song, Weeks ponders such complicated themes as stolen childhood, animalistic urges, and the transient nature of time—wailing against a backdrop of heady rhythms and hypnotizing melodies.
His lyrics are an intriguing mix of cynicism and nostalgia, as evidenced by the punchy single “Pelican” —“One thing’s for sure, we’re all getting older/so we take a lover waiting in the corner/before you know it, pushing up the daisies.”From the gentle roll of “Child,” to the heavy synth beats of “Feel to Follow,” to the arpeggiated pianos and fluttering keys of “Ayla,” the band showcases both a wide range of musical arrangements and a meticulous ear for lyrical structure and intricacy. Despite a murky and mostly forgettable middle section, the record ends on a high note with “Grew Up At Midnight,” an anthemic finale of soaring vocals and beautifully echoing guitars.
Produced by hipster mogul Tim Goldsworthy, this album is meant to be listened to as a dreamy, meandering whole. None of the songs are particularly memorable on their own—instead, each lyric and melody blends into the next like a sprawling canvas of human emotion. However, this ambitious approach does not always achieve its desired effect. Clocking in at just under 53 minutes, the record is too long and suffers from a creative slump halfway through. Attempts at sweeping grandeur often fall short—not because of the band’s lack of talent, but as a direct result of poor studio editing. Still, the few murky areas are just small, barely noticeable missteps on an otherwise sublimely constructed LP.
Although The Maccabees have yet to reach their highest potential as artists, Given to the Wild is an impressive and invigorating step in the right direction. While their previous efforts have been mediocre at best, this new album is a breath of fresh air—standing on its own as a courageously impassioned musical breakthrough.
The Maccabees- Given to the Wild tracklist:
- “Given to the Wild Intro”
- “Feel to Follow”
- “Forever I’ve Known”
- “Went Away”
- “Slowly One”
- “Grew Up at Midnight”