The Maccabees have announced they’re to split after 14 years, four albums and countless gigs together. To mark the occasion, we look back at their 10 best tunes.
10. Marks To Prove It
With a furious, dizzying sound and profound, wounded lyrics (“Over the summer, a lot changed/And they all changed to keep up with it/Too complicated, too complex to talk to anybody”), ‘Marks To Prove It’ was the exhilarating lead single from the south Londoners’ last album. And what an introduction it was: climaxing with a tumbling keyboard line atop manic guitars and Sam Doyle’s pounding drums, it’s an 800mph belter.
9. Toothpaste Kisses
The fourth single from the band’s 2007 debut ‘Colour It In’ was a puppyish lullaby that shows the group’s lighter touch. Dripping in melancholy, it’s a forlorn reminisce on happier days for him and an unnamed beau, before it all turned sour. Singer Orlando Weeks pleads desperately: “Stay with me, I’ll stay with you.” It’s to no avail though, and we’re left simply with a whole lot of sadness.
8. Grew Up At Midnight
‘Grew Up At Midnight’ is the sublime closing track from 2012’s Mercury Prize nominated ‘Given To The Wild’ and like many of The Maccabees’ songs, it’s rife with teen nostalgia: “We were only kids then/We’d get soaked right through,” Weeks sings. Starting out softly, the track builds to anthemic highs, till a huge climax of noisy guitars, pounding drums and strings. Then – nothing. It cuts out. The album concludes. There arguably isn’t a tune in their arsenal better suited to close out festival sets than this.
7. One Hand Holding
One of the best to come out of 2009’s Markus Dravs-produced second album ‘Wall of Arms’, ’One Hand Holding’ is a surging, teeth-clenched frenzy. Orlando’s passionate vocals sound enormous as he howls “Why would you kill it before it died?” at an unrelenting pace. Throw in the shoutalong chorus and you can see why, over the years, ‘One Hand Holding’ has earned its place among The Maccabees’ most cherished fan favourites – it’s a helluva lot of fun live.
6. No Kind Words
2009’s ‘No Kinds Words’ was a real departure for the band, swapping out the cheery optimism and songs about Lego from first album ‘Colour It In’ for something steeped in shadow. Orlando’s vocals are calm and detached as he sings “If you’ve got no kind words to say/You should say nothing more at all” over a menacing bass line. Sound, almost motherly advice, that makes for not only one of the best songs on the impressive ‘Wall Of Arms’ LP, but in the group’s entire discography.
5. First Love
For a lot of Maccabees fans, breakout song ‘First Love’ was exactly that – the gateway track that made us fall for their fledgling indie charm. Its lyrics perfectly capture the anxiety and worry of puppy love, with Orlando crooning: “Nothing’s perfect/And I’m hoping I’ll do/But I will not do/Cause nothing’s perfect/So I’ll have to make do”. Am I good enough for this person? Do I deserve this? These are the universal paranoias ‘First Love’ taps into, delivered at a delightfully breakneck pace.
The group’s biggest crossover hit to date ‘Pelican’ was seemingly destined to become the festival anthem it is today. It’s clearly designed to fill out larger rooms, and as the first single to be released from their all-conquering ‘Given To The Wild’, ‘Pelican’ was a boisterous statement of intent from the ever evolving band. ‘Pelican’ combines Orlando’s beautiful vocals, nimbly plucked guitars and a frenetic pace that will leave you gasping for breath, but it’s the staccato, left jab-right jab opening that festival fields will remember best. Live, it’s a monster. ‘Pelican’ felt like a natural leap forward for The Maccabees, and it was a signal of how the band were set to evolve further away from their puppyish formative years into something that suited them a whole lot better.
3. Spit It Out
The storming standout from fourth album ‘Marks To Prove It’, ‘Spit It Out’ opens as a remarkable, curl-up-in-the-foetal-position-and-cry ballad about – according to frontman Orlando Weeks – “forgotten heroes, and trying to link that to the weird moment seven or eight years ago when that whale swam up the Thames.” It begins with a foggy, atmospheric piano that sounds like it could soundtrack the opening to a Jane Eyre film adaptation, before blooming into a blistering scorcher of a tune, full of angry, barked vocals: “The storm came and tore limbs from the trees/Like a drowning whale/And the thought of it brought us all down to our knees.” A fierce, fearless reminder of how far they’ve come from their more timid indie beginnings.
A song about a wave machine, it’s nigh-on impossible not to get swept up in the lush indie currents of ‘Latchmere’. From the group’s first album, it might not be as refined or as textured as more recent Maccabees cuts, but it is a fine example of the energy and enthusiasm that still underlies their songs. Fast and fun, it’s a Maccabees classic, with a charm that hasn’t faded with age.
1. Forever I’ve Known
From ‘Given To The Wild’, ‘Forever I’ve Known’ is the group’s towering achievement. Orlando’s vocals are so soft and delicate, almost whispering his lyrics about loss into your ears: “It’s not good enough to have you here in my head”, he sings, trembling as he goes. Full of screeching guitars, the song threatens to whimper at the four-minute mark, as Weeks confesses: “Forever I’ve known/Nothing stays forever”. But then – VRRRAAHHMMM – we’re plunged into a whirlpool of noise that puts your hairs on end. It’s The Maccabees at their grandest – they’ve never sounded bigger, or better, than they do on ‘Forever I’ve Known’.