You’d be forgiven for feeling a slight sense of deja vu when you first encounter the Maccabees. After all, they write jerky, nervy little guitar songs, they’re named after a Jewish revolutionary movement and two of them are even called Felix and Orlando for goodness sake. Do we really need another clever-clever art-rock band?
This is a band who open their debut album with the line “Spearmint Rhino has taken our money” and sound genuinely mournful about it. They write a song about a wave machine being installed in their local leisure centre and sing it with such joy and wonder that you want to take the next train down to Latchmere to experience it for yourself. And they have a singer in Orlando Weeks who can turn a simple line like “you stood out like a sore thumb, the most beautiful sore thumb I’ve ever seen” into a thing of genuine poetry.
Yes, after a handful of enthusiastically received singles, it’s time for The Maccabees to deliver upon their promise with Colour It In, and they’ve lived up to the challenge. It’s a glorious album, full of hooky melodies and enough emotional moments to raise the goosebumps on the back of your neck.
First Love for example, one of those early singles, is a gorgeously romantic anthem, with lyrics full of doubt and twentysomething angst that can’t help but be identified with. It starts off hesitantly and tentatively, until Weeks bursts into the chorus of “let’s get married and tick the boxes” with an admirable amount of gusto. Yet, as in all relationships, those first moments of doubt remain (“nothing’s perfect, but I’m hoping I’ll do”) and it just endears you to them even more.
Then there’s Latchmere, probably the only song written in tribute to a local swimming pool, with lines such as “no running, no heavy petting and stay in your lanes” which amazingly doesn’t come off as a novelty song. Lego concerns itself with the tribulations of trying to build a house from the famous building blocks when the pieces have been chewed by kids. Yet somehow, it sounds like the most important thing on Earth.
About Your Dress could be the best love song of the year, despite the fact that it concerns Orlando Weeks nearly vomiting all over his true love and then stubbing out his cigarette on her dress. Furthermore, songs like Tissue Shoulders, X-Ray and Precious Time are all delivered with the same amount of urgency and heart-stopping excitement that’s become The Maccabees’ trademark and make this album such a rewarding listen.
If there’s a criticism to be made, it could be that most of the songs are pretty similar sounding, with that familiar post-punk jangle prevalent throughout the record. Yet this is a band on their first album, still exploring their sound – and the closing track Toothpaste Kisses seems to proactively address these quibbles anyway, being a superbly breezy and low key number, sounding rather like Blur or The Kinks had they been based in Hawaii for a number of years.
So yes, in a word we do need The Maccabees. Because they’re really bloody good. And that’s all that really matters isn’t it?