Writing the follow up to 2012’s ‘Given To The Wild’ was probably The Maccabees biggest test of their career. The band’s third album had the blissful innocence of a debut record, transporting them into another dimension altogether. It wasn’t just a collection of music; it was a piece of art, a complete package.
Three years on and the quartet have returned to their Elephant and Castle stomping ground to affirm their place as one of the country’s great song-writing guitar bands. Throughout their fourth album there are flickers of past success. With the immediacy of title track ‘Marks To Prove It’ and uplifting single ‘Something Like Happiness’, there’s nods towards second album ‘Wall Of Arms’ and an assent towards the charts.
Whilst it may initially seem like a step backwards, ‘Marks To Prove It’ is really The Maccabees at their most intimate. ‘Slow Sun’ and ‘Pioneering Systems’ twinkle delicately and are more likely to be found in the corner of a Parisian cafe than Elephant and Castle’s colossal roundabout, whereas ‘Silence’ would ironically be more exciting if it were to stick to its namesake, as Orlando Weeks opts for dull Moby-like vocals.
For the first time, Weeks’ is joined by female vocals to create more personal, melancholy lyrics in ‘Kamakura’; “Your best friends forget you, your best friends forgive you, you get old”. The sense of longing runs strong throughout and is never more so than the emotionally charged ‘Spit It Out’ which races through Weeks’ longterm memory to recall places further afield from the capital; “When it gets to the English coast, to the place you love the most.” Equally as big is the electric ‘WWI Portraits’ which turns the musical cogs amongst the band into full-throttle gear and comes crashing back down in one of the band’s most playful tracks to date.
There’s pinches of The Maccabees of old in most tracks but with ‘River Song’ the quartet delve somewhere no one could’ve expected; a late night trumpet role call, commanding legions of indie fans to grow up; “You’re not getting any older, soldier on for another year.” Having reinvented themselves with ‘Given To The Wild’ they haven’t been afraid to make a few tweaks here and there, and whilst it may take half a dozen listens to find its inner beauty, it’s one worth finding.