Given To The Wild – The Maccabees
There is something incredibly admirable about The Maccabees’ slow rise to the indie forefront. In 2006 the genre was flying high; Arctic Monkeys were about to release their breakthrough album, The Strokes were set to return, The Killers were maturing, Hot Chip were experimenting, while Kasabian and Muse were about to take over the world. It was an exciting time, but young hardworking bands found themselves either hastily shot into the limelight, destined to crash and burn, or forced to toil away in the background.
The Maccabees made the middle of festival line-ups and the corners of magazines their home. By the time 2007 and debut album Colour It In rolled around the pace had quickened; The Klaxons and nu-rave stole attention while seemingly everyone from Radiohead and the Kings Of Leon to MIA and LCD Soundsystem decided to unveil pivotal career defining releases. The fact that The Maccabees inventive take on the Futureheads’ core aesthetic reached number 24 in the charts went all but unnoticed. Undeterred, the band would return with a new producer, Markus Dravs, and a rich Arcade Fire inspired sound. The London five piece garnered more attention, particularly from the critics, but somehow remained a second tier act among a new indie darling elite.
However, circumstances have changed, and all that good work is set to be rewarded. 2012 sees The Maccabees standing tall, they’ve outlasted the trends, they’ve survived indie’s rise and fall, and they’ve seen the Milburns, Mumm-ras, and Good Shoes come and go and, for once: indie expects, and The Maccabees must deliver. It’s an unusual position for a subtle background player, but The Maccabees appear up to the task.
Given To The Wild is full of grand dramatic rushes learnt from Arcade Fire (“Go”), but thankfully the Maccabees retain their flair for innovation and unexpected progressions. The band remain happy to let tracks glide and linger when a grand crescendo is expected or, better still, they’ll come to a sudden halt in the midst of a locked in rhythm. Like The Antlers Burst Apart and Wild Beasts Smother, Given To The Wild is playing a clever game best associated with Foals. The Maccabees are floating on the edge of an arena-sized explosions of sound, but they reign themselves in; offering brief illusions of pop grandeur, only to pull back and spiral off in a new direction.
Coldplay and U2 loom large, The Edge’s guitar work and Chris Martin’s sudden rush of colour inform Given To The Wild just as strongly as Arcade Fire’s slow build and Win Butlers hiccupy vocal. Still, if The Maccabees influences are easy to spot, they don’t dampen an album of sensuous textures and beautiful understatement. “Only One” encourages the listener to serenely meld into its stirring strings before violently yanking the rug out out and plunging into a swirling current of jagged atonal guitars. “Child”, on the other hand, offers an endearing sense of spacious tranquility before succumbing to stampede of irresistibly danceable horns.
The three-minute Futureheads aping assault of “Pelican” was a complete red herring. It’s a reminder of The Maccabees’ past, not their gloriously layered and thrillingly unpredictable future. Given To The Wild is full of unexpected turns and dramatic flourishes. At its best, as the enlivening rush of “Feel To Follow” gives way to the conflicting textures and inspiring swells of “Ayla”, The Maccabees strike a balance between layered beauty and irrepressible frenzy. Given To Wild may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it deserves to be admired in its own righ, as a remarkably coherent work that refuses to stand still, and refuses to tick any one box. At heart The Maccabees’ latest offering may lack any clear standout tunes and a truly individual voice, but few will care when the overall experience is this rich, and this rewarding. David Hayter