THE MACCABEES – GIVEN TO THE WILD REVIEW

My expectations for this album would no doubt have become clear with the Given To The Wild preview article, they were exceptionally high – which certainly puts the pressure on The Maccabees to deliver something amazing after hearing “Pelican”, “Feel To Follow” and “Child” pre released in that order just getting better and better.  A little spoiler for you; those expectations were most defiantly justified, for The Maccabees have really delivered. Given To The Wild is an evolutionary masterpiece which is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time. A clear departure from 2009’s Wall Of Arms to a more symbolic lyricism and a larger expansive moving sound.

Saying that this is the first time they have felt like their own band with their own true sound gives you an indication that more has gone into this record than any before – it seems to hold within it the true souls of The Maccabees which were otherwise absent from the first two LPs. Its themes based on nature, nostalgia, family and the circle of life are close to the heart of Weeks, the Whites etc. and are projected onto us with both tenderness and grandiose epic soundscapes; have the extraordinary power of moving you with the sentiment and raw emotion of their creation. The epic instrumental vastness and the distinctive honesty of Orlando Weeks’ vocals are very much at home on an African plain or a bleaker wilderness. These expanses are complimented by opposing crescendo leading to climaxes of massive power, ending many tracks on the highest of highs, and assuring Given To The Wild’s monumental success, as sincere and beautiful a record as your ever likely to hear.

Entering into the “I Wanna Be Adored” inspired intro “Given To The Wild”, a zooming atmospheric piece which begins your journey into the guitar and the cinematic, commanding “Child”. The song which inspired the album’s title and follows two of the album’s main themes; nature and the circle of life, as explained by Weeks “Being ‘given to the wild,’ it’s not a choice that you’ve made. It’s something out of your control.”. “Child” grasps you with a lovely brass section and spits you out after tumultuous guitar solo from Felix White (or was it Hugo) as uncontrollable as the choice of our own existence, before it simmers down into the more pain filled; for example with the lyrics: ‘You never know it’s too late until it’s too late.’; yet equally emotive “Feel To Follow”. The second track to surprise you with its blissfully epic climax, you would have been very wrong to have thought after “Child” that The Maccabees could give little more but you would have been forgiven, “Child” is exceptionally brilliant.

Moving through the dream-like hypnotic qualities of “Ayla” and “Glimmer” sees a softer side to the album, although not standing out; they along with “Heave” are by no means fillers, there isn’t a single filler. Given To The Wild is one whole without unnecessary elements, presenting the progression of The Maccabees group writing process and their production which has given them the maturity and skill to pull off their new expansive sound.

“Forever I’ve Known” is yet another clear departure of style from The Maccabees of old, with the new softer calming vocal beautifully delivering “ Forever I’ve known, nothing stays forever. Couldn’t you still try?” It strikes a perfect balance, with wave of wave of aggressive guitar crescendo interspersed with gorgeous moments of calm.  This leads you to “Heave”, the calm before the storm that is the unstoppable final five tracks on the LP, by way of “Pelican.

The first single “Pelican”, which along with the album uses images of the work of Andy Goldsworthy, whose work sits perfectly in with the albums feel, obviously the nature elements. The effect of the photographs before and after the fire are massive – showing the uncontrollable force of nature; it’s destructive power; and the desolation caused is no doubt part of a life cycle, giving a fertile soil to allow growth and re-birth; followed by the immutability of the stone kiln acting as a vessel relaying the ideas and emotive makeup of feeling obtained by listening to Given To The Wild. The pieces visually represent much of which makes The Maccabees third album such a great work of art and music. The song itself however is merely an optimistic jangly instrumental with lyrics about parenthood and nostalgia in “And we go back to where we came from”, it’s nice granted, and an obvious single but really nothing much more.

After “Pelican” comes “Went Away”, the indisputable standout song on the album. The most euphoric emotive moment of Given To The Wild comes from the most beautiful vocal that The Maccabees have recorded “Hold me close, don’t let me go, I need you so”, A love song if ever I saw one, and one that is becoming very personal to me, though much of this not to do with its lyrical power but it’s other-worldly guitar and launch into a perfectly joyous unprecedented final two minutes, that are nothing short of blissful. Not the most musically inventive song, but four minutes of brilliance which is too answer for the new “stadium sound”.

“Go” is yet another massive song fit for stadiums, giving light to the influence of both Coldplay and Arcade Fire on Given To The Wild. It’s a track that just gets bigger and bigger, an ambitious direction that has really paid off, most likely due to how natural a transition this seems to be. A big bass line and ghostly vocal greets you on “Unknown” ending in a surprisingly beautiful souring vocal from Alpines’ Catherine Pockson. Yet another bombardment of sound surprises you in the latter half of “Slowly One” after a tremendous build up, and what makes it so good is the jarring harsh guitar from White ripping apart all of the earlier opposing subtleties and beauty – as only nature would.

Given To The Wild ends on another high with “Grew Up At Midnight” a nostalgia filled  tale of friendship, and a far more resonant, relatable feeling than all of the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. A lovely finish to what is the album of The Maccabees careers; if they can come out with anything better there are some truly great things to look forward to. There really is no need to look forward however because Given To The Wild should be all that you’ll need to be listening to for the for see able future and it is defiantly not one to be left behind by time. I couldn’t tell you enough how amazing Given To The Wild is.

Best Tracks:

1. Went Away

2. Child

3.  Go

4. Forever I’ve Known

5. Unknown

Oscar B. Wilson

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