It’s amazing what a big difference a little change can make and in the case of Given To The Wild (the third outing from UK group The Maccabees) it’s a little overwhelming what a massive difference many little changes can make. It’s been three years since the bands last record Wall of Arms, in that time period they’ve set out to charter new territories. But rather than overhaul everything and start from scratch, they’ve tweaked a series of conscious and calculated decisions. This has resulted in their most ambitious and bold work to date, granted their musical metamorphosis is still somewhat of a work in progress but as a first step towards change, Given To The Wild is a good move from The Maccabees.
The most noticeable thing about this record is just how much The Maccabees have matured musically, they’ve always been more than capable of handling themselves and have proven over the years to be a talented bunch. But this shows a sincere growth in all areas, the production value of the material on this album is much higher. From tighter, cleaner recording , studio experimentation and the inclusion of additional instrumentation such as brass work and strings, Given To The Wild shows a band willing to adapt and evolve. Vocal harmonies have been cut down and lead singer Orlando Weeks is given more space to let his vocals breathe and linger. He’s even experimented with a few higher octaves in places which add’s a somewhat ethereal and dreamy dynamic to certain songs. On top of this their overall sound has been re-moulded. There’s a significant drop in catchy, cutesy indie pop numbers and an increase in delicate almost cinematic slow burners. They’ve swapped a lot of their sharper more direct techniques for softer aesthetics in the form of glistening guitar riffs, reverb and even synth pads in places. In a way this makes Given To The Wild somewhat reminiscent of Feist’s record Metals from last year, in the sense it feels like it’s making strides to be more robust and serious than it’s predecessors.
However it’s not as if the group have dropped everything in their repertoire, there are moments where old meets new and rather than collide these opposing styles work really well. In fact the album is at is most effective when it forms this post modern maccabees shape. Album highlights Forever I’ve Known and Heave seamlessly blend shades of the band that were and the band that could be. This not only acts as an effective bridge for fans to adjust but shows the group adding depth and more complex structures to their material.
However you must bear in mind that this is still very much a transitional album, certain aesthetics, aspects and stylistic jumps take a while to wrap your head around. Their new direction is also one they havent perfected yet, there are still tweaks to be made but it’s great to see a band with an already somewhat magnetic appeal, widen their scope further.
Change can be scary but if you open yourself up to it’s possibilites, it can also be enigmatic and beautiful.