THE MACCABEES – Given To The Wild (Fiction)

How can an album released in the second week of January already be tipped to be the album of the year? It is that sort of hype that can cloud your vision when you listen to it as you could be expecting much more than it can deliver. I have The Maccabees’ first two albums, and do agree that ‘Wall Of Arms’ was a vast improvement on their debut, and so logically you would expect this one to be at least equal to, if not better than, that one. Bearing that in mind, which is no less than I would expect from any band’s third album, I gave it a listen. The title track is actually a short intro to ‘Child’, which I have to admit is a great song. Building slowly to a climactic finish, and with a full arrangement giving it a lush feel, it is the first great track of the album. ‘Feel To Follow’ has Orlando Weeks utilising a falsetto vocal style on a pounding rocker, and the cracking guitar solo at the end must surely put to bed that oft-quoted maxim that guitar-based indie is on the way out. The piano-led ‘Ayla’ is another great track, and once again it is the arrangement which transforms it from a good song into a great one. You could imagine that if this was on their debut it would be a jangly pop song, but here it is epic and grandiose, but without being in any way overblown, and I am beginning to see why critics rate this album. ‘Glimmer’ is a slow ballad, which pales in the shadow of the previous two tracks, but it still a pleasant song, while ‘Forever I’ve Known’ ups the ante with its ringing guitar lines punctuating a great little rocker. Fleet Foxes-like harmonies abound on ‘Heave’, and the ghost of The Futureheads looms large on first single ‘Pelican’, but in neither case does it detract from the fact that they are good songs. ‘Go’ utilises processed beats to give it a skittish feel, but doesn’t forsake the guitars which are out in force on an uplifting chorus. ‘Unknow’ seems indebted to U2 for its guitar sound, and the pounding drums are much more evident, making it the perfect stadium crowd-pleaser. ‘Slowly One’ is a song of two halves, with a dreamy opening giving way to some jagged guitar and massed harmonies at the end, and ‘Grew Up At Midnight’ closes the album with another great rocker with a huge chorus, and you can hear why the band closed most of last years concerts with this song. So, album of the year? How can you possibly tell with eleven and half months to go. But…album of their career? Most certainly.