The Coronet – May 14th
During the heady days of 2007, The Maccabees were one of my very favourite bands. Their debut album, Colour It In, was a permanent fixture as I zipped around my Uni town of Leeds in the ol’ Clio. Back then, Orlando Weeks sang wistfully about first heartbreaks and first hangovers over angular guitar and rumbling post-punk drums. The songs on that album were the backdrop to the fading of my teenage acne. They gave me pep talks before my first ever dates. I sang their choruses at my first ever festivals. Orlando was singing about my life. And I really dug that.
Since then, The Maccabees, like myself, have come a long way. 2009’s Wall of Arms was a darker and more mature effort; owing an awful lot to Arcade Fire collaborator Markus Dravs who worked closely with the band during the album’s production. By the release of 3rd album, Given To The Wild, they’d easily shaken off the ‘landfill indie tag’ that some had tried to peg on them earlier in their career. They’d cemented themselves as festival staples and garnered a reputation as darlings of alt-pop, selling out venues up and down the country.
After a lengthy tour to promote their 3rd album, the band took some time off. But, sometime in the past two years, they’ve snuck back into their South London studio to record their forth LP which was, in their words, their “most stressful” album to date. Arriving on stage 45 minutes late, they hurl themselves into a slightly up-tempo version of ‘Wall of Arms’, after which Weeks apologised to fans that had been stuck outside under the grey south London sky.
Back-dropped by a huge image of the, er, ‘iconic’ Elephant and Castle roundabout, the band take a second to explain the idea behind the new album. “It’s essentially about noticing the little things in life and finding beauty in the mundane,” explains Weeks. It’s a deep concept. Especially when you consider that this is a man that once wrote a song about his local swimming pool. And it’s that very song that’s the most rapturously received of the evening as The Coronet is transformed into an indie-disco, complete with pogo-ing and crowd surfing.
For most, including myself, it’s an evening brimming with nostalgia. But The Maccabees were never a band to be overly sentimental. Sandwiched between hits like ‘X-Ray’, ‘No Kind Words’ and ‘Precious Time’, they seize the opportunity to play their new material for an audience that is clearly enamoured with them.
Hearing these songs, the evolution of the band is abundantly evident. Current single ‘Marks to Prove It’ has all the energy of their early work as well as the hooks that they’d honed so perfectly by their sophomore album. What’s interesting, though, is they seem to have taken things up a notch. ‘Kamakura’ sees Weeks at his most reflective, as he evokes the forlorn, brooding spirit of The National’s Matt Berninger. While the brilliantly named ‘WW1 Portraits’ builds slowly from a rolling bass-line and a tidy guitar riff into a huge soundscape that’s akin to Scottish experimentalists Mogwai.
As they closed with 3rd album hit ‘Pelican’, I realise that this band mean more to me than I thought they did. Everything about them is so familiar, even the new material. The Maccabees have managed to maintain their essence; that effervescent and exciting spirit that drew so many people to them some 8 years ago. But what they’ve created over the past two years is something new all together. I only hope that I can grow up as well as they have.