The Maccabees – Marks to Prove It (Album Review)

The Maccabees may well be one of the hardest working bands in Britain today. The London band, fronted by Orlando Weeks, have spent a good part of the last three years hammering away at their new studio album, Marks to Prove It. The final result is nothing short of exciting – 11 tracks which cover everything from drunkenness to personal relationships, and beyond. The album came out last week via Fiction Records, and it’s already received rave reviews from many outlets. Read on for All Things Loud’s own verdict.

The record opens on lead single, and title track, Marks to Prove It. A pulsating bassline underpins the intro as a plucked guitar riff and occasional distortion both make way for a riff which kicks the track into full force. It’s a euphoric and pounding opening, one which completely sets the scene. “No one was lonely, they just could not get hold of anybody” sings Weeks during the first verse, before a stadium-ready chorus enters the frame in complete bliss. The track subsequently slows down and speeds up in an epic manner, before Kamakura’s opening rhythm section makes for a darker tone. A drone-y background wail (courtesy of Will White) underpins the whole affair, adding a more demure scenery to Kamakura’s oriental imagery. Weeks’ vocals complement the instrumentals well, in particular Felix White’s clanging guitar. Ribbon Road goes on to introduce an eerie riff/vocal combination, which is accompanied by occasional keys and forceful drums (courtesy of percussionist Sam Doyle). Ribbon Road is one of the more thoughtful and anthem-based songs on the record, with extra emphasis definitely having been placed on its instrumental construction. Guitars intertwine nicely with the rest of the song, going to show how well the band can integrate with one another.

Album highlight Spit it Out follows, all five minutes proving more memorable than the rest of the album combined. A haunting opening piano accompanies Weeks’ voice early one, his vocals also accompanied by an ascending/descending bassline. As the track progresses, it builds up in intensity, swiftly leading into a chorus so emotive and strong that it stays stuck within the confines of your mind forever. Felix & Hugo White’s guitars carry the track for the most part, each member giving the song extra ground to tread upon alongside Weeks’ inquisitive vocals. According to an interview with NME, Hugo claimed that Spit it Out was the band setting the tone for playing as a whole collective at once, at the same time. “What are we doing now?” asks Weeks ahead of the bridge, with the track eventually (and emotively) leading into Silence. An opening piano line sets the scene for the rest of the track, namely slow-burning ballad territory. “Thought I’d find it easier under lock, chain and key” claims guitarist Hugo White over the opening two lines, the rest of the song building up into a beautiful piece of music. River Song seemingly starts off in a similar manner to Silence, yet this time round it builds up into a cataclysmic outro which is every inch the epic instrumental outro a band like The Maccabees needs. Slow Sun follows on a similar wavelength, also incorporating a lone trumpet during the intro to add an air of eeriness and mystery to proceedings. At least, that’s what the band are trying to do. They might do it to an extent, yet it doesn’t wholly fit in with the rest of the record. Slow Sun’s climax is slow and brooding, yet that doesn’t make it any less urgent or exciting.

New single Something Like Happiness keeps the album down in ballad land, making for the most anthemic record of the record. “You just know when you know, you just know” sings Weeks (with vocal backing from the White brothers), a line which precedes an “ohh ohh” chant worthy of the red seats of Wembley Stadium. It makes way for WW1 Portraits, a track which also encompasses summery surf rock synths and electronic drum toggles. “Go get her, go getter” sings Weeks, his lyrics becoming smarter and more intriguing over the course of the record. Weeks is a fine lyricist, and the lyrics on Marks to Prove It may well be some of his best ever. WW1 Portraits eventually climaxed into a chaotic outro which features a powerful vocal wail from Weeks, accompanied by high-pitched distortion guitars and a contrasting synth line. Penultimate track Pioneering Systems yet again makes use of a guitar and piano intro, this time utilizing them both in a more progressive manner which sees the instruments form as one, as opposed to being a handful of separate entities. The song doesn’t go very far, unfortunately featuring very little in the way of a strong build-up. Album finale Dawn Chorus’ opening drum salvo and melodic verse (one which sounds lovelorn from the word go) are the sweetest on the whole record, with the first verse bassline helping the whole track piece itself together under Weeks’ vocal spell. “Break it up to make it better” he sings during the chorus, his lyrics preceding another brass section which leans more to the Western side of things (as opposed to the previously heard smooth jazz). This ensures that Marks to Prove It comes to a calm, subtle end. It may not be the most powerful ending ever, but it’s definitely enough to prove that The Maccabees are slowly but surely entering the UK big league of indie rock. Marks to Prove It may not have its own Toothpaste Kisses or Pelican, but the apples definitely aren’t falling too far from the tree. Jack Parker


Marks to Prove It is out now via Fiction Records/Universal.