Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Maccabees - Given To The Wild - review

The Maccabees 2009 album 'Wall Of Arms' was their leap forward into the alternative mainstream, and its follow up sees the band playing it safe, not trying anything too radical. However things have mellowed slightly and this third album clearly sees the band opting for a more mature and atmospheric approach. Sometimes it works, like on 'Child' which builds gradually into a blissful tone setter. But by third track 'Feel To Follow' the impact is far too slight, with a melody that doesn't quite catch the ear in the right way although it does temporarily burst into life with some brilliant guitar play. 'Ayla' is rather grey and solemn with its stony faced piano and lots of the airy, reverb-heavy harmonies that are found spread over this album. Think British Sea Power crossed with Foals and you're halfway there. Right at the end it decides it wants to turn into Muse's 'Uprising' for its last few seconds. 

'Glimmer' is lighter in tone and peacefully charming as more tranquil guitars ripple across the musical ambience nicely before 'Forever I've Known' builds from a curious bassline and a heartfelt vocal into something more serious and dramatic, but the lack of a good chorus prevents it from being the epic the band had hoped they'd made. The real standout track is the single 'Pelican', easily the record's most memorable and instant moment. Also the most melodically satisfying, the vibe and tempo provide a much needed change from the downbeat mood of 'Given To The Wild''s first half. To begin with 'Went Away' sounds not unlike Kings Of Leon with a synth but doesn't take long for the melodies to start appearing and when the pieces fit into place the outcome is one of the album's best moments. 'Go' moves on a dark restrained hip hop beat, a lazed bassline and a somewhat undefined verse before launching into a big scenic New Order sound on the chorus, minus the impressive tune to match. 'Unknow' is an improvement, with the bass flashing relentlessly like a warning signal, contrasting effectively with the hazy guitars, dreamy synths and a style almost like some sort of mysterious, confused disco music. 'Slowly One' brings to mind what Elbow would become like if they got lazy and gave up writing great songs while the closing 'Grew Up At Midnight' could be Bon Iver covering Coldplay. 

Most of these words do make this album sound more interesting than it actually is, and as a whole 'Given To The Wild' is far too one dimensional and doesn't have enough tracks that match the same standard as 'Pelican' or 11. Such fine moments aside, this collection of songs is dragged down by too many fillers and every now and again things get a bit dull. However there are still a handful of signs that suggest the group can build on the more promising elements of this record. 6.5

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