The Maccabees carry on in much the same vein with their new offering ‘Wall of Arms’ as with 2007’s ‘Colour It In’. Although showcasing a somewhat softer, more multi-instrumental sound than previously displayed, the band don’t seem to have troubled themselves with attempting any actual musical progression. Single ‘Love You Better’ could easily slip into their first album, while closing track ‘Bag of Bones’ continues the we’re-being-quiet: we’re-emotionally-strained pattern recurrent throughout their discography.
The Maccabees are a band who do whimsical well, and although seemingly unable to transpose this onto other emotional waters, ‘Wall of Arms’ charts the progress of the band from over-discussed art-rock darlings to slightly more grown-up media darlings. Production duties were delegated to ‘Neon Bible’ engineer Markus Dravs and this shows; although a well-constructed album, the production reeks of Arcade Fire, comprising echo-distorted voices and expanding melodies -see Young Lions’ anthemic swell from sober delicacy to vast crescendo. Jerky guitar and jagged lyrics are very much where the band’s interests lie; the young, playful romance of Colour It taking a turn for the darker this album as singer Orlando Weeks wails “Why would you kill it, kill it, kill it before it dies?” across new track ‘One Hand Holding’.
Supposedly, their debut album represented the band’s adolescence. If so, this album presents rather a sorry tale for maturity, It’s themes running from relationship difficulties to adultery, cheating partners and, just for the banter, death: like the last album, the draw lies in the subtlety of the lyrics. While ‘Young Lions’ and the title track imply a band able to move beyond their experiences, the majority of the album reads as residue from their debut. It has its moments, but as an album, is fairly repetitive and ultimately forgettable. (Laura Cernis)