(Marks to Prove it Record Sleeve)
Having survived and matured as a band for ten years whilst other indie guitar bands have faded into obscurity, The Maccabees are an unique, even miraculous entity. When their debut record Colour it In, a bouncy album of hook melodies and timid lyrics, first appeared on the scene back in 2007 few would have said that such a band would have stood the test of time. The band were put into the bracket of yet another generic British indie-rock group with their jerky sound and nervous vocals (nothings perfect and i'm hoping i'll do...but i will not do). However a decade on, with a mercury prize nomination and an Ivor Novello award under their belts even the Maccabees' harshest critics have been silenced.
The Maccabees' remarkable journey continues to unfold through their latest record Marks to Prove it. Two weeks ago today the band's fourth album hit the coveted number one spot in the British album chart. In doing so this london based quintet not only defied the current mainstream music market by giving some much needed lime light to the hugely underrated alternative music scene but also smashed one of their own records through scoring their first ever chart topper.
Marks to Prove it is unlike any Maccabees album before it. Instead, the record works by retaining the band's characteristic guitar rifts and timid vocals whilst layering this with the added element of piano and haunting female vocals. This myriad of sounds contained in one record is simply breathtaking and undeniably the band's greatest work so far.
The album, centred around Elephant and Castle, documents the journey from dusk through to dawn in the city. The album's pervading themes of change and mortality were likely inspired by the band's South London hometown which in recent times has been victim to the negative effects and social upheaval of gentrification. The portrayal of silence in a usually bustling centre is a powerful and eerie oxymoron that carries chillingily throughout the record, building gradually to a triumphant climax through the aptly named dreamy final track, Dawn Chorus.
The album's title track and first single, Marks to Prove It (much like the single Pelican from Given to the Wild) stands out like a sore thumb (to quote the frontman himself) to the overall sound and feel of the record. With its pounding guitar and loud vocals that represent the chaos and pandemonium of rush hour in the city it stands out amongst the later calmer, slow building tracks. It would be easy to think this album a feel-good listen due to its dreamlike sound, however, Marks to Prove It provides the listener with a thought provoking narrative that deals with relationship breakdown and the realisation of human morality, concepts that are a far cry from the band's debut record about wave machines and lego. On Kamakura, frontman Orlando Weeks launches into a chilling chorus which ends 'Your best friends forget you get old', a brutal reminder of the creeping hands of time.
The record also deals with the struggles and reality of everyday life, in particular River Song in which Weeks' describes staying in an unhappy relationship whilst then reminding us that 'the truth is we've all done the same'. With it's honest lyrics that ring all too true whilst retaining an overwhelming sense of beauty Marks to Prove it has proved the Maccabees are one of (if not) the greatest band of recent times.
(P.S -- these photos were taken at an intimate Maccabees gig at Banquet Records, Kingston where we were lucky enough to meet the boys themselves, who were completely lovely by the way!)