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“The Maccabees” An Indie Music Wild-card?

Given to the Wild
Artist: The Maccabees
Album: Given to the Wild
Released: 9th of January, 2012
Genre: Alternative
Label: Fiction Records

Given to the Wild was released by Fiction Records on the 9th of January. It is the work of a 5-piece band from London. With Orlando Weeks on Vocals and Guitar, Hugo White on Guitar, Felix White on Backing Vocals and Guitar, Rupert Jarvis playing Bass and Sam Doyle on Drums, they are slowly but surely making their way to the top of the indie ladder.

There is something incredibly admirable about The Maccabees’ slow rise to the indie forefront. In 2006 the indie 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 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. Luckily for us, The Maccabees’ 3 album, 5-year toil has paid off.

Given to the Wild finds The Maccabees fully embracing a new, expansive and epic instrumental sound. The Maccabees may have switched producers, this time guided by hipster producer Tim Goldsworthy, formerly of DFA Records, but despite a new name in the mix, they keep the same sound on their third album…deploying their signature lyrical repetition, complex arrangements and precise mix of brass, samples and drums. This is the sort of epic baroque pop that works perfectly at festivals but which succeeds just as well blaring through your record speakers.

Everything on this record seems familiar and uplifting. Songs such as Child find Orlando Weeks singing in the falsetto style of Chris Martin, and mixed to sound even more ethereal.Child offers an endearing sense of spacious tranquility before succumbing to a tidal wave of infectious danceable horns.

Coldplay and U2 do loom large on the album, The Edge’s guitar work and Chris Martin’s sudden rush of colour are obvious ingredients in Given To The Wild. The track Glimmerreferences the sound of Coldplay most obviously. Still, if The Maccabees’ influences are easy to spot, they don’t dampen an album of sensuous textures and beautiful understatement.

However, it doesn’t take long to work out the structure of almost every track on the album, with the quiet intro – loud finish method becoming the trademark. Another weak point for the band is the difficulty for the listener to really differentiate between melodies and even entire songs, under the narrow lines of Orlando Weeks’ vocal register. There is a definite lull in the middle of the album, but with a great start and finish, one tends to forgive them for this. Given to the Wild is far from perfect. Sometimes the ideas are too much, are unfinished and are crushed under the weight of the album’s ambitious agenda. A with 14 epic tracks, the final being an eight and a half minute video track, perhaps the album is a tad too long.

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 ofAylaThe Maccabees strike a balance between layered beauty and irrepressible frenzy. Given To The Wild may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it deserves to be admired in its own right as a remarkably diverse yet coherent piece of 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 I found myself hitting play over and over, wanting to experience its rich and inspiring rewards one more time.

I give it 4 out of 5 kisses.

Copyright 2012 – Written by Amy Bastow for the “Kiss My Arts” show on Joy 94.9 – Monday evenings. 9pm. 

My latest catch-up with Ani DiFranco was AWKWARD!

Which Side Are You On?
Artist: Ani DiFranco
Album: Which Side Are You On?
Released: 17th January, 2012
Genre: Folk
Label: Righteous Babe Records

You know the anticipation and excitement of meeting a friend that you haven’t seen for 3 years?…but only to be disappointed because you realise you have nothing in common anymore? That’s how I felt about my latest catch up coffee with Ani DiFranco. It wasn’t even like we started off talking about old times. Nope. Nothing. The awkward silences were there right from the start. It’s not often that I don’t feel any connection to an album. Being a Gemini, I can usually find good on both sides. There’s usually at least one song I can appreciate on an album, but during my date with Ani’s latest album Which Side are You On, this week, I found myself cringing from start to finish.

Ani’s music has always had political themes, and that’s cool by me. No dramas there, but with lyrics like “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have an abortion”, I felt saddened that her usual poetic finesse was reduced to something a 10 year old might say in the school playground. Her continual trite references to women made me feel embarrassed to belong to the same gender as her, certainly not because I don’t believe in equal rights, but because of her appalling delivery of the subject. Her message and execution are incredibly outdated. We get it Ani. Women’s rights! But did it have to take you another 3 years to decide that’s what you wanted to write an album about? Seriously? Ok, but maybe is it too much to ask you to package that same message in a way that is say, a little bit classy? Interesting even? Or just not crap!?

It’s not even like the lyrics were perfectly and poetically woven into the textures of the music – no! Not at all. It was as though she had a script and was just simply reading it out over top of some terribly uninteresting music.

How is what you’ve done Ani, ever going to empower or inspire me to take action on equal rights? I know music has the power to create social change and stir emotions in people, but the only emotion that was stirred in me whilst listening to your music, was displeasure.

Even if lyrics are dull and poorly phrased, I can usually look past that and focus on the interest in the music. But I couldn’t even do that. Ani, seriously. Give me something! The only half decent song, the title track, Which Side Are You On?, isn’t even hers! It is a revised version of the 1931 Florence Reece song that was popularised by Pete Seeger nearly five decades ago. Seeger features on the track and breathes some kind of momentary life into the album.

As you may have guessed, I wasn’t a fan of Ani DiFranco’s latest musical offering. The worst album I’ve listened to in a while. Which side are you on? I’d love to hear how your latest catch-up with Ani DiFranco went.

I give it 3 out of 5 kicks.

Copyright 2012 – Written by Amy Bastow for the “Kiss My Arts” show on Joy 94.9 – Monday evenings. 9pm. 

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