South London quintet The Maccabees are back with their fourth studio album, Marks To Prove It. Following a Mercury Prize nomination for their 2012 release Given To The Wild, the new offering follows daunting footprints. There is no doubt that the indie outfit has come up trumps again, yet this time with a slightly unanticipated twist. Picture the authentic Maccabees guitar-filled style, but now with a dream-like makeover.
The title track of the album has a rather intense energy about it; although an anomaly in the understated temperament of the album as a whole, it marks a confidence of The Maccabees’ new age and experience. Eleven years down the line, the band has honed their sound and ended up with a more thrilling refinement of their early indie rock genre. Frontman Orlando Weeks and his band of merry men recorded the eleven tracks over a staggering two and a half years in their own studio in London. ‘Marks To Prove It’ really captures this notion of the effect of time in its poignant lyricism, accompanied by clashing guitar riffs and of course trademark vocals.
Like the debut single, the rest of the album bears a thematic focus on life’s transience and the scars that are left behind. However, the racing rhythm of the ‘Marks To Prove It’ soon dissipates into a set of aching tempos and softer melodies, which identify perhaps a more mature headspace for the band. Tracks ‘Pioneering Systems’ and ‘Something Like Happiness’ in particular luxuriate in the stripped-back effect; the former features no guitar at all, casting the spotlight on spangled keyboard lines and dizzying vocals.
This is not to say there is no trace at all of the initial bite heard on ‘Marks To Prove It’. Although much less potent, the fourth track on the album ‘Spit It Out’ eventually breaks into an outburst of passion-fuelled guitar and uplifting chords. The sound here is resonant somewhat of iconic rock band Muse; it boasts a U2-esque, theatrical quality which wouldn’t seem out of place in any stadium. The album takes us from this intense high to the muted tones of ‘Silence’, and the lively yet underplayed waltz-like strings that drive ‘River Song’.
As the album draws nearer to its close, we hear ‘Something Like Happiness’, a track anchored in gentle joyousness, highlighted by a breezy tempo, beautiful ethereal synths and rolling drums. There is something clever about its placement preceding ‘WW1 Portraits’, an evocative and slightly more downbeat menagerie of percussion-laden sounds; the eleven-strong tracklist takes us on a tumultuous journey through highs and lows, the mood setting finally upon ‘Dawn Chorus’, a sleepy lullaby that culminates an otherworldly, trance-like atmosphere. Hugo White of the band said “there weren't any lyrics…Orlando came and did one take and it didn't get touched.” The Maccabees are still as talented as they always were, and it shows.
Marks To Prove It is out now on Fiction Records