The Maccabees - Given to the Wild

by Miz DeShannon Rating:5 Release Date:2012-01-09

Having been a trendy NME favourite for some time, The Maccabees are apparently departing from that cosy label and growing up for their third album. Right into Coldplay's shoes it seems. New release Given to the Wild uses the production skills of Tim Goldsworthy (LCD Soundsystem) and Bruno Ellingham (Massive Attack) and is apparently filled with influences from The Stone Roses and Kate Bush to David Bowie, although you will undoubtedly struggle to figure out where these come in.

There are some great pieces of orchestration throughout the album - opening and title track 'Given to the Wild (intro)' is like a piece from a film soundtrack, a filler piece. In fact the whole album would sit well as fillers on a film soundtrack. It's got that 'epic' feel to its sound (dreadful word but widely used to describe this monotonous-playing-but-getting-louder-and-more-intense sound) created through layers of drums, trumpet fanfares and vocal harmonies.

They've obviously grown up and learnt some stuff, whether they can do it themselves or not, and there is something quite triumphant in the horn blasts that blare out on 'Child' and 'Ayla'. The former is filled with Weeks' ethereal vocals flooding through a spiderweb of vocal harmonies and delicate basslines, the latter with beautiful uplifting piano and vocal melody, but again more trumpets, layered vocals and basic drum beats. There is a definite theme throughout the album but no real stand-out tracks. Parts here and there stick in your mind, but nothing particularly grabs you and makes you say "YES - this album is fabulous!". It's more of a "meh, that was nice".

It's interesting that their producer worked with Hercules & Love Affair - Weeks' sounds glaringly similiar to Antony Hegarty at times, with his choirboy-like voice on 'Feel to Follow' and 'Slowly One' particularly. You'll find some memorable points after listening more than twice; heavy synths on 'Heave', nice solid bassline on 'Go', and single 'Pelican' returns more to previous form with short, sharp guitar riffs and a punky edge.

All in all, however, Given to the Wild consists of wailing vocals, basic drumming, and all that guitar thrashing which builds to a crescendo, again and again. There's no problem with chord repetition here, it's the manner in which it's done - think about someone telling you what you want to hear when they don't mean it, it just doesn't fit right does it? The same goes for this intense and unmelodic strumming which takes hold of each track - despite spectral sprinklings of piano and striings, it seems like the album consists of very simple writing covered up with great work from a reputable producer. Basically, this is just what they did before and hardly the monumental release we've been led to believe it is. Maybe it is for die-hard fans, but it's really not groundbreaking or new sounding even.

The Maccabees will always be in the jangly, swing-your-head-around Telecaster indie bracket. Yes, Given to the Wild may be very pretty and may be a move from their twee indie roots, but underneath it all it still sounds like an indie band who spent the weekend with Coldplay to me.

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