Back again with another blind taste test. This time around, Fran has challenged Nick to review The Maccabees’ Colour it in after just one listen. Fran introduced the album like this…
As is often my way, I am immediately going to make a couple of early predictions. The first is that you would probably prefer Wall of Arms, the album that followed The Maccabees debut that I am recommending to you today. The second is that, in 2020, it might be a little difficult to see how this band stands out from the 2007 indie scene that they were definitely a part of. I hope that second one is wrong – because they definitely do.
The Maccabees were entering a crowded marketplace when they released Colour It In, and on the surface they weren’t doing a lot differently. They’re five white boys playing guitar, after all. But they have endured for me in a way that few bands from that era have and there are a good few reasons for that. On tracks like ‘Latchmere’ and ‘X-Ray’ they make music as fun as music can be, on songs like ‘First Love’ and ‘Precious Time’ they give stories of youthful emotion that, it turns out, translate through to your later years, and on ‘About Your Dress’ and ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ they give us some lovely lyrics and superb storytelling. I think they are a few massive strides above their rivals in the genre – I hope you feel the same.
There are quite a lot of bands from this decade (the annoyingly named noughties) that I really like, so your claim that The Maccabees are massive strides above their rivals is a bold assertion. Let’s see…
About 40 minutes and just one listen later, I’ll start with the stuff I’m not as keen on.
The first thing I’d say is that, whether better or worse than their compatriots, The Maccabees do sound very much of that era for quite a bit of this album. It was a period, like any other, with its own production idiosyncrasies, and Colour it in is no exception to the rule (in large part).
The word that most comes to mind to describe this production is “thin.” Elements like kick drums and bass sometimes actually border on tinny, which I’m not a big fan of, and sometimes meant the album sounded quite dated. “Latchmere” is a good example. I wanted the admittedly great energy of the pace of a lot of these songs to be matched by a more weighty production to carry it along.
As far as the competition, I hear a lot of bands that I really like in this one: Test Icicles, Maximo Park, Los Campesinos. It’s a bit much to say Colour it in blows any of these band’s albums’ out of the water, but I think at times it holds its own.
The production “issues” are not a constant problem either. ‘Tissue Shoulder’ is mixed in a much more present and fuller way, that drives through its choruses with a fierce blast. This track gave the best first impression to me. ‘Precious Time’ is another really strong track in that department – lots of unusual turns that kept my interest, and I would definitely go back to.
The energy I mentioned is pretty infectious too – I found myself irresistibly drawn to the band’s consistently fast pace through much of the album. I also really liked the vocal movement in OAVIP, which made the album more about the song construction than the dated mix problems.
All in all, Colour it in has some fun moments for me, as you suggest Fran, but without a personal association to this album that it sounds like you have, it’s not compelling enough for me to fall in love with it. Still, there are enough clever moves in there for The Maccabbees to be worth checking out, for those who don’t know them.
Words from Fran Slater and Nick Parker.