After having their highest-charting album to date in the U.K. with 2012's Top Five and Mercury Prize-nominated Given to the Wild, the Maccabees hit some rough waters in the recording process for their fourth studio long-player, with the bandmembers reporting that they struggled to settle on a production style. They eventually attempted to create a replicable live sound more so than on prior studio albums, particularly the aforementioned cinematic Wild. The result is the more immediate but still weighty and expressive Marks to Prove It. It follows the example of its predecessor in sharing a more pensive, weary tone than prior releases, so it doesn't feel like a departure as much as a subtle maturation spelled out in lyrics like "Your best friends forgive you/Your best friends forget you get old." The record is also peppered with glimmering synths, loaded with guitar effects, and visited by brass and sax solos, as on "Dawn Chorus," so there's no stagnation in sound resulting from the attempted reeling in of design. The rockin' lead-single title track is an exception to the deliberate pacing of the rest of Marks to Prove It and is a highlight, if not the highlight, of the record. A galloping, guitar-chugging tune with switching meters, big drum fills, and vocal wails, the lyrics again reflect a jaded, existential outlook, observing "Over the summer a lot changed/And they all changed to keep up with it....Take a photo of it/Come back years on and wonder why you took it." In contrast, the piano-led "Silence" offers the album's most delicate delivery (with vocals by guitarist Hugo White), but not without dissonant guitar noise and spoken-word samples. Somewhere in between, "Spit It Out" is remindful of early U2 in its driving, determined wistfulness, and "River Song" is a howling, saxophone-enhanced power waltz. Overall, Marks to Prove It feels a bit anxious, but that's not necessarily to its detriment, and four LPs in, the Maccabees are still making smart and sophisticated Brit guitar rock.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson