As The Maccabees announce a series of farewell gigs, Getintothis’ Adam Chapman takes a look back at their legacy.
“Forever I’ve known, nothing stays forever”. Never has a lyric rung so true.
Taken from the track Forever I’ve Known from the 2012 album Given To The Wild these words have been spinning round many a fans head since The Maccabees announced their split on August 8th 2016. Much like a winning streak on Fifa or optimistic new years resolutions we all knew they had to end one day, but the wound is still fresh even after months of contemplation and reflection.
A handful of shows at Manchester’s 02 Apollo and London’s Alexandra Palace in late June, early July 2017 will signify the end of one of Britain’s most beloved recent bands. Aptly named ‘Live For The Last Time: The Farewell Shows’ we can’t help feeling fans will flock from far and wide with a similar mindset to that of a funeral and thus the words you read now shall be something of an obituary to celebrate, not mourn, the life and times of The Maccabees 2004 – 2017.
Formed in London circa 2004, the 5 piece went on to define the organised chaos of the mid 2000’s NME inspired scene. The Jaunty and thrash filled guitars and backing vocals of Felix and Hugo White sound like they shouldn’t have been able to mix with the pining calming voice of lead singer Orlando Weeks, yet somehow it did.
Maybe this was due to the band’s timekeepers in Rupert Jarvis (Bass) and Robert Dylan Thomas (Drums, later replaced by Sam Doyle in 2008). Maybe it was their incredible talent for writing catchy tunes or maybe, just maybe, it’s because their guitar riffs were drummed into each and every episode of The Inbetweeners about 5 or 6 times. Whatever it was, it worked and a 13-year legacy was born but not without a few bumps along the way.
The Maccabees debuted with their track X-Ray, released in November 2005 on Fiction Records and followed up with Latchmere, an endearing love song to a Battersea Leisure Centre’s wave machine, now if that’s not original, we’re not sure what is.
Through the early viral spread of the music video to Latchmere, before YouTube was the behemoth it’s known as today, the band started to gain momentum. This, mixed with the hushed whispers in the capital’s music scene and energetic live shows, lead the band to being taken on by Fiction Records with whom they recorded and released their debut album Colour It In.
The 2007 album gave the band their first top 40 hit with First Love, a heart-breaking love song about the pressures of rushing through the first love most of us have experienced. The film reel many of us play whilst with that first love, filled to the brim with thoughts of marriage and the future that only clouds the incompatibility of the relationship.
The Maccabees followed this up with their second top 40 single About Your Dress solidifying how the band were perceived by new and old listeners alike. They were familiar, they sang about things that every person experienced, they could be your mates telling you about their night out last Friday.
The album resonated with many but gained the tag “Landfill indie” by some, still managing to reach number 24 in the charts despite mixed reviews. However The Maccabees had arrived and the Top Man loyalty card masses knew they were witnessing something special even if some magazines in the country begged to differ.
It wasn’t all a plain sailing rise from here though. Following a chaotic 2006 Brighton Concorde gig in which fans had overwhelmed security, the band’s live future was called into question. Stage invasions, fights and damage to property had the band tarnished with the problem band label. Major restructuring had to be put into place for future gigs that led to overly strict enforcement and an even worse label…”boring”. In an interview with The Guardian in 2012 guitarist Felix White described the gig “It was crazy, the most passive people were the band”
The live UK music scene is a fickle one, it’s a place where reputations can be made and broken in the chorus between two verses. Knowing this The Maccabees decided to ply their trade across the pond. On returning to the UK for a full tour in October 2007, they were welcomed back with open arms and a sold out final show at the Roundhouse in London.
After a successful US tour supporting already highly established band Bloc Party, the band started working on new material. With anticipation rising, the band dropped two new tracks on Steve Lamacq’s “In New Music We Trust” teasing their second album, No Kind Words and Young Lions. No Kind Words especially showed The Maccabees had returned with a new sound, a matured sound, more caught up in the wistful metaphor of life, love and friendship, than the blunt, “Tell it how it is” lyrical style of the first album. The subsequent music video for No Kind Words, starred Gavin & Stacey stars Mat Horne and Matthew Baynton.
For their second album, Wall Of Arms, the band worked with producer Markus Dravs fresh off his work with Arcade Fire, it’s clear to see his influence at play. The First Official single especially Love You Better. Released on May 4, 2009 it instantaneously confirmed the band’s rumoured new direction. Backed with a full brass band in following live shows, the release tour and critical success of the album led to Wall Of Arms entering the UK charts at number 13.
With the end of the tour and homecoming shows sold out across the capital, The Maccabees capped off a summer of high profile festivals slots, Reading and Leeds being a personal highlight for the band and cementing themselves back into the UK live scene.
After a hectic two years following the writing, releasing and touring of Wall Of Arms, the band took a two-year hiatus to focus on their third album Given To The Wild. It’s possible the predicted end of the world in 2012 was an influence in the overall sound and lyrics direction of the third album but we can’t say for certain. Given To The Wild and it’s lead single Pelican clearly express the message of a band reflecting on what has been. Child and Feel To Follow further drive home the idea of infant innocent being lost and the growing existential questioning of the human condition.
It’s with this album the band firmly establish themselves as heavyweight title contenders in the UK music market, reaching a top 5 slot in the charts and earning the London lads a Mercury nomination to boot.
3 years and a university degree (for us) later The Maccabees returned for what would become their fourth and final album Marks To Prove It. After the success of Given To The Wild and its echoing, meditative grooves, Marks To Prove It was a return to the past.
The band pay homage to their home, with many tracks being a tribute to the area that made them many years prior. Sounding much more raw and grounded, the album screams a desire to become that rowdy live band they once were, with motifs sounding more like a stepping stone between their first and second albums rather than continuing on what had been a pretty steady path. The direction now was that of going full circle with Marks To Prove It, feeling much more like swansong 2 years later on than it did at it’s time of release.
And so it has come to this. A year after the release of their fourth album and 13 years after inception, The Maccabees “Like those before and those to come” announced their split with a letter posted across their social media sites, saying after 14 years as a band, the 2017 shows would indeed be their last.
But let us not cry at a time like this; let us not weep at the passing of a band that touched so many, let us instead remember how they transcended a music scene that killed off so many prior, RIP The Pigeon Detectives, RIP The Wombats, RIP Pete and the Pirates.
Soon to be gone but never forgotten…The Maccabees 2004 – 2017.
The Maccabees play Manchester O2 Apollo on June 27 & 28 and London Alexandra Palace on June 29 & 30, July 1