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Given to the Wild was different to what I was expecting - given both the previous Maccabees albums and the singles that I had heard before I got the album, but because they are a band that change from album to album, perhaps I shouldn't have been too surprised.
The opening two songs Given to the Wild and Child have a dreamy, spacey feel to them which set the scene for the album.
Feel to Follow feels more like The Maccabees, particularly the first album, although a gentler, more wistful version, slightly reminiscent of Bombay Bicycle Club. It has a more distinctive tune than the first two tracks and the up-tempo bits are some of the most intensely engrossing of the album.
Ayla opens with a hook of jaunty arpeggios, then is overlaid with a lovely melody. The mood turns a little darker at the bridge with some insistent guitar chords introduced. It isn't the most immediate or coherent track at first, but it has some real depth within its layers.
Glimmer returns the album. to the dreaminess of the opening tracks but doesn't really grab the imagination and is a bit of a disappointment. Forever I've Known seems to start out as if it will be similarly unmemorable as again their previous ability to write a cracking tune is cancelled out by instead trying to create a sense of atmosphere. The guitars do latterly build to something more interesting but it is not up to their former high standards. Heave also feels like half a good song, at the start meandering before picking up into something a little interesting (although also a little Coldplay-esque).
When Pelican kicks in, it is a real jolt, as here are The Maccabees I've been missing. This is as good as much of their first album. Fantastic tune, fantastic tempo, than weaves a gorgeous multi layered musical web. This is a real shooting star of a song and is the high point of the album.
Went Away is very different from anything thus far - much more vocally driven, but the insistent drums give it a graceful energy to go with the floating guitars. If Pelican is a shooting star, this is a ride along in an open top car.
Go has less of an impact, but it's slow tempo and atmospheric guitars would lend themselves to a soundtrack for a day lazing about in the sun. Unknown is darker and choral but again lacks a really distinctive tune or guitar hook to make the song really compelling. Slowly One also feels like it is haunting the background rather than striding to the front and make you listen for the first half of the song. When the fuzzy swirling guitars pick up half way through the track, it becomes much more interesting and complex rush of exhilaration. Grew Up at Midnight builds towards a fantastic climax, a haunting and heady mix of guitars, vocals, keys and what sounds like it might be an organ, it has a real choral feel to it and is a fitting album to the album, not immediate or catchily tuneful, but evocative and dream like.
The album certainly grows on you more and more as you listen, but has less of the tuneful immediacy of the previous Maccabees albums. It only has a couple of stand out tunes, most notably Pelican. The band have gone for something more mature and involved than their previous work, but I don't feel they have quite pulled it out of the bag.
I first came across The Maccabees in 2007 when they released their first album. They had a very fresh and interesting approach to the Indie pop market that really seemed to appeal to me. Now returning with their third album, I was hoping that it would improve of their second release in 2009. I still love and regularly listen to 2007's "Colour It In", but I've never really been captivated by the follow up Wall Of Arms. It seems though that the return of The Maccabees has got the critics excited and so I was keen to see what the new album had to offer.
What's In A Name
The band's name comes from, what can only have been a drunken night, where they were flicking through the bible picking random words. Having passed up their original choice of Thanet band they landed on The Maccabees. Despite the religious routes of their name the band have stated on numerous occasions that they aren't in any way religious, which again leads me to believe that drink had to be involved in the London 5 pieces name choice.
It would seem that the music world has finally seen that the Maccabees are a band that should be taken seriously, with many suggesting that this is the bands big break. It would be the first real breakthrough for the band and for a short time last week it looked like they would get number 1 in the album charts, settling in the end for number 4, which still makes it their best performing album to date, but is it their best?
Given To The Wild
For me the answer to that question is a simple no. The debut album is still by far and away the bands best album and although the sound has matured a lot since then, they don't seem to really have been able to capture the energy levels in their music anymore. It's evident from the opening track of Given To The Wild, which builds very slowly and creates a very atmospheric and solemn mood that I don't really feel works for The Maccabees. The echo on the vocals is a little weak and as an opening track it really does nothing for me.
It builds slowly into the album and is followed by "Child". This is another slower number with a very low beat and a quieter musical element that really takes its lead from "Given To The Wild". The trakc is very slow and structured but it just seems to lack the bands trademark spark. The vocals are very slow and feel quite forced. The pace picks up slightly with "Feel To Follow", but it still has quite a slow beat and continues with the atmospheric musical accompaniment. There are slight glimpses of the earlier Maccabees in the chorus but it just isn't quite enough.
Just as I felt it was about to really take off, things slow down again and it's this aspect of the bands newer material that just doesn't really work for me. Whilst the albums fourth track "Ayla" is still quite slow it does have a more energetic feel to it. Once the vocals kick in the pace lifts slightly and this is what I feel The Maccabees are really good at. The album to this point has been nothing special, but it starts to sound more like the album I was expecting with "Ayla".
That sound is lost on "Glimmer", which brings back the more atmospheric sound that the start of the album was really moving towards. Even the vocals sound totally different to how I expected and by the 5th track on the album I'm finding it quite hard to recommend it. The album then moves on to "Forever I've Known" and as it builds into the vocals it is musically quite a quiet and slow track again. The vocals come in and the pace stays quite slow and the tempo very low. It's a track that seems to keep building from the start but never really goes anywhere. As you keep expecting it to really get going it just seems to meander on, which again doesn't really work for me.
The volume is raised slightly with the slightly more upfront "Heave" but the pace of the album still seems to be stuck in first gear. A lot has been made about the more mature sound of The Maccabees, but I think they've really lost the appeal their early material had with this slower, more mature approach. In fact it takes to the albums 8th track and the first single before I really found a track that I liked. This sounds like the more upbeat and Indie pop friendly Maccabees that looked destined for great things in 2007.
It has a decent beat with a good tempo and catchy lyrics that really work. From the guitar intro to the introduction of the vocals and then the drums it is perhaps the direction I had hoped The Maccabees were heading. It does have its slower moments but the quality of the music and the stronger vocals really make this the track the rest of the album needed to be. It's a shame because it's a sound that continues into "Went Away". It still has the atmospheric pitch of the earlier tracks, but the faster paced sections really sound quite good. the problem for me is how late in the album this all begins.
The album then slows right down again with "Go" and the momentum that the previous two tracks had begun to generate was quickly lost. It's far too slow with a very quiet vocal and a meandering guitar riff that just fails to really get started. It's fair to say that the last three tracks on the album continue this trend with "Unknow", "Slowly One" and "Grew Up At Midnight" all sounding quite similar and leading the album to a very uninspiring climax.
I had real high hopes for the 3rd album from The Maccabees. I had hoped that the direction they began to take with the second album would have passed and a return to the debut albums style would be evident. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case and instead they've moved to what many are describing as a more mature sound, but it's a sound that I don't think really suits them.
Having loved the debut album its tinged with sadness that I write this review as instead of having three albums I love, I'm indifferent to two of the bands 3 albums and that's the reason why I really can't recommend Given To The Wild, it's a shame as I wanted to like it, but after many listens it just isn't happening and there are still really only two tracks I can hand on heart say I like. I can see why new fans of the band might like the album, but given where the band have come from I feel this is a really disappointing release.
The album is currently available for £7.99 on amazon
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Given to the Wild (Intro)
3 Feel to Follow
6 Forever Iâ??ve Known
9 Went Away
12 Slowly One
13 Grew Up At Midnight