I first encountered The Maccabees a few years back at Leeds Festival. They had been about for a while, but had flown below my radar. The situation was quite surreal: they were participating in a Q & A session with some fans. They made up the panel, whilst the audience and in particular those posing the questions, were mostly teenage girls.
Lead singer Orlando Weeks fielded most of the interrogation, which covered little ground between: "Do you have a girlfriend?" and: "Why did you get your hair cut?" Normally, I would've upped and left, dismayed, as I was, at this debacle of Bay City Rollers sized proportions. Alas, after a hard weekend's festivalry my back was sore and I had managed to come by a relatively comfortable position. So I stayed to see the band play. I'm glad I did.
They seemed at odds with their status: Weeks had been greeted like a fifth Beatle by his adoring fanbase, but he seemed ill-at-ease. He gave one word answers and seemed embarrassed. When they took the stage, though, things changed. Their music was intelligent and tuneful, if slightly whimsical. I made a mental note to get a copy of Colour It In, their debut album.
Listening to the debut two years on, it has aged well. It's a grower, for sure, but it still feels like something’s missing. The quality of the singles, especially Toothpaste Kisses, isn't replicated throughout, and this is a point their second album actively seeks to address. Resultantly, it’s a rounder, more substantial record and sounds excitingly like a band fulfilling its sizeable potential.
From start to finish, Wall of Arms is an intense listen – on the marauding pre-emptive strike on hacks and naysayers No Kind Words, it’s even confrontational – but there’s not a dud track to be found. With Markus Dravs on production duties, some likeness with Arcade Fire may have been expected, but the extent to which Orlando Weeks’ vocals mimic those of Win Butler is at times uncanny. Lead single Love You Better jostles with Kiss and Resolve and the aforementioned No Kind Words for pride of place on what is a tremendous sophomore effort.
Video: The Maccabees - Love You Better
* This review is published in much more efficient style here: The Skinny