“Good From Far, but…” or The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It

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Let us suppose for a second that artists are looking to direct your attention to a universal truth. That brush strokes are meant not only to communicate emotion but also to enlighten a patron on the depths of the human condition. Within that context, picture a bespectacled man walk to a microphone, clear his throat, drink from a glass of water at the podium, and finally speak these words: “Dude! Growing up kinda sucks! Ya know what I mean?”

This is the dilemma of The Maccabees

Guys who once sang love songs to “Lego” suddenly ‘growing up’ enough to tell us that life can be a drag in over arching metaphor is a pretty big leap. So when Orlando Weeks sings “tell yourself you’re getting wiser / the truth is we’ve all done the same” on “River Song” you can’t help but wonder if it is a hangover talking, or a real attempt at artistic expression.

It’s this idea that becomes rather distracting. For a band that was once full of twenty something fun, their conversion is disconcerting. Yes there is high energy in much of Marks To Prove It, which plays well with their new ‘confusion and anger,’ but when they drift towards the more melancholy the record loses cohesion.

This entire idea plays itself out in the title track which starts as an ‘all hands on board’ rocking number, but finishes in raindrop falling keyboard loneliness. Throughout the record they spend a lot of time describing things, but not much on drawing you in. Like my ‘bespectacled surfer dude’ the idea is amusing, but the realityis not compelling enough to make you stay.

A friend of mine used to have a saying a long time ago that best suits Marks To Prove It – “Good from far, but far from good.”

Playlist March 29/15


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1. “Love Buzz” – Nirvana

Something about the bass line in “Love Buzz” that at times seems both sinister and fun. Then the guitar kicks in and you can’t decide which instrument to ‘air-play’ to, and when you finally decide, you find yourself doing vocals and tearing your throat apart in a vain attempt to capture that fierce Cobain voice. I could listen to this over and over like a demented 13 year old and never see myself getting sick of it.

2. “Kid With Crooked Face” – Bob Mould

A long time ago, I saw Sugar play several times. I was always blown away by how Mould can convey image and emotion with a dry vocal competing against his fierce (and very loud) guitar work. He’s also the guy that convinced me to have a pair of ear plugs in my pocket at a concert… my ears were ringing for two days after I saw Sugar for the first time.

3. “The Simspsons Theme” – Green Day

Well I couldn’t very well talk about the Lego Simpsons house without sneaking in this wonderful bit of Green Day noise.

4. “The Way We Were” – Me First & the Gimme Gimmes

Most people think of Streisand when they hear this song. Instead I get killed by the heartache and laughter of the late great Gilda Radner. I think she would like this version too.

5. “In The Heat Of The Moment” – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher is one of those artists I will purchase without even hearing a song. He just has that dependable rock’n’roll sound that gets me humming in whatever setting I’m in.

6. “Listen To Some Music” – BMX Bandits

Glasgow band has fun with a jangling low-fi house party sound. Would love to see them live, but the Atlantic Ocean provides a small barrier between me and that little dream.

7. “Spider-Man” – The Mr. T Experience

I must have listened to a 100 different versions before I picked this one. You would think I would get sick of it… but no – I just wondered where the hell the Ramones version went.

8. “Lampshades On Fire” – Modest Mouse

Like the song, but if I see a lampshade on fire, I’m reaching for a frickin’ extinguisher, not dancin’ around.

9. “Panic In Detroit” – David Bowie

This is a preview – I will soon be writing about a special vinyl acquisition and I couldn’t wait to play something from it. Here’s a picture – I just hope it sounds as good as it looks.

10. “The Great Salt Lake” – Band Of Horses

Arriving with the new Modest Mouse, came this great record in a coke bottle clear colour. Sounds great, looks great, and is another of that limited stuff I buy every so often.

11. “On My Wall” – Travis

I’ve been a fan of Travis for years, but the weird thing is, I couldn’t tell you much about them other than the Brit-Pop connection and that I have always enjoyed them. It’s like they have been stuck on the mellow side of Radiohead’s The Bends, and continue to dwell and explore that place.

12. “Lego” – The Maccabees

The band with a religious name that doesn’t follow any religion – but can write a pretty decent tune involving Lego… well ok… as usual my wit has escaped me.

13. “Delinquency” – V Twin

Another Glasgow band said to be the “Next Big Thing” falls short. Still, like Teenage Fanclub before them, they write some great tunes. Only problem is finding their stuff.

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14. “The Hardest Button To Button” – The White Stripes

Seeing as I wrote about Elephant only yesterday, I figured they should hit the mix today. Besides it gave me another opportunity to include that Simpsons/White Stripes video.

15. “Elevator Operator” – Courtney Barnett

Due to my fascination with vinyl I don’t often talk about new artists, but damn, this song was too good to pass by without putting it into the mix, ask me in a month if I feel the same way about the album.

16. “Tin Soldier” – Small Faces

I was always a bigger Faces fan than the Small Faces, but in recent years I’ve gone back to discover that when these guys were at the top of their game, they were every bit as good as the Kinks and Who… which is about the biggest compliment I can give.

17. “The Letter” – The Box Tops

It’s hard to believe that Alex Chilton has departed this place; even harder to believe he was only 16 when he recorded and had a #1 hit with this song. He certainly doesn’t sound like a kid.

18. “Free Again” – Alex Chilton

Because I was in the mood for Chilton, I could help but throw this on right after the Box Tops. It is an awesome song in its own right. The album can still be purchased from Omnivore. For a good laugh, you can see how much Chilton hated lip-synching.

19. “Sundown” – Gordon Lightfoot

A prize find at last year’s RSD, I’ve spent many hours since mellowing by the window reading books and listening to this record.

20. “Echo Beach” – Martha & the Muffins

One of my favourite songs from childhood, it convinced me I really didn’t want to grow up. Unfortunately, responsibilities have a way of making such proclamations sound rather silly. Still, I would rather be at “Echo Beach” on a mid August evening than in front of a computer in March. It was a long winter.