This ‘Maccabees’ article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor
The Maccabees’ long awaited fourth album ‘Marks to Prove it’ is easily challenging for the title of the best album of 2015. It is powerful, meaningful, and incredibly emotional.
Although previous Maccabees releases have been strong, ‘Marks to Prove It’ is the most accomplished, mature and complete. It may not quite feature the obvious stand out hit of the previous album (the track Pelican), but that is not a criticism; every track is memorable, and each one contains so much beneath the obvious exterior that only becomes apparent after a few listens. It certainly benefits from being played in its entirety in the intended order, following along with the emotional journey.
Everything starts with a bang, with title track (and first single) Marks to Prove it giving the impression of the beginning of a journey. It is filled with guitar riffs and musical interludes of lilting time changes. It has a sense of purpose and positivity as it drives decisively into the album.
Orlando Weeks’ vocals are second to none. They flow through the tracks like gooey caramel as he bares his soul with believable sincerity. This is the sign of good singing and songwriting, both of which the Maccabees possess. In addition their instrumentation is well thought out, and pleasing.
A noteworthy feature of this album is the general mood that underpins all songs. The Maccabees struggled with recording and ultimately finishing this album, and those difficulties are reflected subtly throughout the tracks. It is not depressing to listen to; taken on face value the songs are strong and enjoyable to listen to. Delving deeper, it is filled with imagery that is a reminder of dark English winters and gives a sense of desperation and hopelessness.
The use of vocal harmonies and voices singing in unison add a lot to certain tracks. In the lullaby-turned-rock-song Spit it Out, harmonies add to the complexities of the instrumentation, and dynamics are used effectively, mixing quiet contemplative moments with loud stand-out phrases. River Song expertly uses the strength of the Maccabees’ voices as they sing together in chorus to remind us all that we’re ‘not getting any younger’.
Brass instruments are introduced towards the end of the album, suggesting thoughts of night time. With the lonely brass solo at the beginning of Slow sun, you can almost picture yourself as the protagonist, perhaps alone on the cold empty streets at night, looking out into the darkness, clinging to the memory of ‘real love’ that the song speaks of. Dawn Chorus closes the album and features some well-placed muted trumpet solos. It feels like the end of the night, hanging up your coat in the early hours of the morning as you return home, everything coming to an end. It is quiet and introspective and it does exactly what it’s supposed to – says good night and goodbye with a reminder to ‘make it better’.
It is tempting to make comparisons between ‘Marks to Prove it’ and some other great albums and bands that have similar feelings and concepts, but it is probably best to leave it to stand up on its own.
‘Marks to prove it’ is out now on Fiction Records. The full tracklisting for the album is…