Maccabees' first album, Colour It In, was more than a little indebted to the Futureheads, Bloc Party, and the other U.K. acts who popularized urgent tempos and angular riffs in the mid-2000s, but the band drastically renovates their sound on Wall of Arms. However, it's still easy to hear where they get their inspiration. They've traded their formerly scrappy approach for a style that borrows the Arcade Fire's anthemic sweep -- it's no coincidence this album was produced by Arcade Fire collaborator Markus Dravs. On "Can You Give It," singer Orlando Weeks' previously marble-mouthed vocals have morphed into something closely resembling Win Butler's tremulous keen, and the rest of the song follows suit, with galloping drums and handclaps that lead the way to massive choruses with a dramatic ebb and flow. Even though the band shows its influences just as transparently as they did on Colour It In, they sound much more confident and comfortable -- in fact, they seem downright eager to display their newfound skills and polish: the brass on "Young Lions" and throughout the album underscores the majestic levels that Maccabees try to reach. Wall of Arms is bookended by "Love You Better" and "Bag of Bones," both of which are far slower and more patient about showing off their goods than any of Maccabees' earlier work; likewise, the band would have been too hyperactive to attempt "Seventeen Hands"' thoughtful-yet-jubilant reflections on love and marriage on Colour It In. However, they haven't totally abandoned their pop instincts. "One Hand Holding" and "Dinosaurs" boast sing and shout-along choruses, and "Kiss and Resolve" plays like a more grown-up take on their bouncy insistency. Crucially, despite the more sedate tempos and outlook, these songs feel truly purposeful. And even if Maccabees still aren't stunningly original, they've made a significant step forward with Wall of Arms.
Wall of Arms Review
by Heather Phares