Album Review: The Maccabees – Given To The Wild
It may seem that it isn’t the ideal time for an indie band to bring out a new album, but The Maccabees have managed to generate quite a bit of hype in recent weeks nonetheless. And, at Given To The Wild’s very best, that hype is well-deserved.
The first thing evident about The Maccabees’ new effort is that every song is a relative slow-burner. It’s effective as a real chillout album, and it’s admirable that they’ve clearly thought of this record as a work of art rather that a collection of songs to play live, but it can get a little frustrating waiting until the penultimate verse of a song for that killer hook, and the result is songs that seemingly end all too quickly. One good example is the awkwardly-paced Heave, which plays like Coldplay’s Fix You with a fast drum beat that rather clumsily accompanies classic chillout melodies.
There are a fair few exceptions to this trend, most notably the upbeat likes of ‘proper’ indie-rock anthem Pelican, but while it initially seems that this arena-ready lead single would cue the album to ‘get going’, normal service is pretty much resumed with ’80s techno themed Went Away. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a chillout album, but the fact that Pelican stands out so much almost makes it feel out of place, and as a lead single it doesn’t really represent the album that well.
That being said, The Maccabees have managed to create a sound that can only really be described as, well, The Maccabees, and that’s thanks to the distinctive and altogether excellent vocal performance from Orlando Weeks. Combine this with the creativity of the entire band, and you have the potential for something quite spectacular.
Of course, potential doesn’t always mean a strong final product, but it’s tracks like Feel To Follow that really puts The Maccabees firmly in the realm of the great indie rock bands, rather than the merely good ones. Another stand-out moment is the sombre yet inspired Forever I’m Known. Its progression that leads to a reasonably heavy chorus is surprising, but extremely well-done, and once again shows off the vocal talent Weeks has in abundance.
Another nice touch is the use of an intro track in Given To The Wild, which again presents the theme of The Maccabees really thinking of this album as a complete studio recording rather than a selection of songs to blast out onstage. It sets the chillout tone of the rest of the album nicely and leads into the masterful opener Child almost seamlessly.
The album does have its downsides, but unlike most albums weaker tracks cannot really be described as filler here, even if they don’t have the same impact as the real highlights. The record does fade away a little with closing tracks Slowly One and Grew Up At Midnight, but to call these songs bad would be relatively harsh. That being said, the fact that the record drops in standard towards the end does mean it’s tricky to view it as particularly consistent.
All in all, Given To The Wild is a creative record that manages to avoid being boring or derivative, but has occasional lapses that prevent it from being genuinely inspired. There are moments that make you believe Orlando Weeks and co could have pulled off the spectacular, and others that feel a little out of place, but despite imperfections it marks a solid return for The Maccabees.
FMV Rating: ***