The Maccabees are one of those bands who occupy some space on the CD shelf, that got and get some decent air play when I’m in the mood (hello Wall of Arms) but otherwise don’t really register until I remember they exist.
They followed James (the band) on the main stage at Latitude 2010 and, as we left the James set, we got nigh-on trampled by what seemed like the posh version of the extras from Skins stampeding towards us. Turns out they were the Maccabees crowd. If I felt old then, Hop Up ages me further…
Admittedly, I’ve paid no real attention to Orlando Weeks’ solo outings until now, but i am chuffed that he is doing a something. Maccabees split around the same time as my beloved Augustines and, having worked closely with William McCarthy for some time after, I was acutely aware of how unnecessarily hard it is for former front men. Like Billy M, Weeks has a stand out, unique vocal and that, beyond anything, shines throughout Hop Up.
Opener ‘Deep Down Way Out’ is absolutely what happens if The Shins did backing band duty for Jim James. It’s slick, it’s summer-funky and it is Weeks in a superbly familiar higher register. I think I like this now, I think I might love it in summer. As we move into track two, ‘Look Who’s Talking Now’, I’m fairly sure this is actually Sade and child’s keyboard playing weird notes, bit like that scene in Friends with Ross and his helicopter sound effects. This feels and sounds really twee. No likey. Like the conference version of the premiership’s Graceland.
‘Bigger’. Banger. Calling it now, one of the tracks of summer if we have one that includes pubs and company. This is clearly carving a place in 80s alt-pop revival turf and, if I close my eyes, I see this playing in a disco with shoulder-padded characters from ‘It’s A Sin’ looking fabulous and intent on making their worlds ‘bigger’. Beautiful, slinky. Love.
Fuck sake Orlando. ‘Yup Yup Yup Yup’? Nope. Is this a demo? Did someone include it as a joke? Probably really cool to really cool people or people who hang about Hoxton thinking they are .. which I am not. Feeling the Skins extras from Latitude coming for me again vibe. Skip.
‘High Kicking’ is a slight improvement but still, this doesn’t grab me. The instrumental bit went a bit ’80s Hallmark film with some heavy petting after prom’ scene. Don’t look at me like that you know exactly what I’m on about.
‘No End To Love’ is my favourite track on this record. Progressively expanding vocals which have been given permission to dominate electro beats/synth. Brilliant stuff. It almost has a Jimmy Somerville/Smalltown Boy feel and this is only ever a compliment. Some unnecessary, well, what sound like honks, at the end. Drop the geese, or give me a version without them, and this is Lisa’s Top Songs of 2022 territory.
‘Hey You, Hop Up’. Confession time. I drafted this review when I was in the hairdressers last week having my greys covered. I was in the middle of another beautifully crafted James Mercer/Shins reference when, hold the phone, is that fucking panpipes? Panpipes…really? Is this what we’ve become? My review paused there and, only a few days later, Weeks was on 6 Music’s “My Space feature” and he clarified that they were “Bottle Flutes”. Even fucking worse. Isn’t that what kids used to do with Panda Pop bottles in the pub, in the days where people would knot-up KP Nuts packets and put them in ashtrays? I mean this is 80s referencing to a whole other level, Orlando.
‘Make You Happy’ is Marmite turf…but I love it. The drums are like a second heartbeat and Weeks’ vocals move over them like a wave. With the core lyrics “I want for you to be happy, makes me happy to make you happy”, it won’t get an Ivor Novello, but a bloody lovely tune that I expect to see on many summer playlists and episodes of whatever today’s Skins is.
Katy J Pearson joins Weeks on ‘Big Skies Silly Faces’ and it is gorgeous, almost so that I wished the record ended here. It is smooth and easy and how I’d want to leave Hop Up, as closers ‘Silver’ and ‘Way To Go’ do little for me. The latter isn’t all bad, but we’ve heard ten other songs on this album which all sound pretty much like this.
Maybe it feels too summery to accompany picking Eunice-d roof tiles up off the drive, or maybe it just is, with the exception of maybe three or four beauts, just not that good.
Upside, this isn’t Orlando Weeks trying to be and do The Maccabees. Downside, this isn’t Orlando Weeks trying to be and do The Maccabees.
Words by Lisa Whiteman