The Maccabees certainly didnâ€™t invent their sound. The nervous rush of jerky, angular guitar bursts, syncopated rhythms, down-stroked melancholia, and harmonized vocal melodies can be found in any number of other bandsâ€™ playbooks, namely The Futureheadsâ€™ (by way of XTC and Gang of Four). Itâ€™s not The Maccabeesâ€™ originality, or lack thereof, for which they will be remembered, however. Colour It In is a debut record for this Brighton quintet, after all. And as such, it shows more than enough potential to forgive some obvious beginner mistakes, even if they are rooted in trends as transparent as NME hype.
Vocalist Orlando Weeks has an affected warble that he knows can manipulate the mood of every song, perhaps, ingratiatingly so. His versatility controls the myriad faces the band tries to wear as it charges through its often similar arrangements and chord progressions with a mix of youthful abandon and anxious energy. Weeksâ€™ voice lends character and depth where the band needs it most. His inflection shouldnâ€™t be entirely unfamiliar, as it sounds like a muzzled version of Robert Smithâ€™s wounded whimper and Kele Okerekeâ€™s precious moan.
Once youâ€™ve exhausted pointing out all the musical references (which, admittedly, can take a while), itâ€™s much easier to let the songs crawl under your skin. These guys fearlessly rush through predictably sentimental emotions, but they do it with such finesse and vigor that it excuses some of the mawkishness. The Maccabees have certainly mastered their dynamic approach. Guitars flitter and hang in the balance to allow Weeks to eke out his verses and then the gears shift into overdrive, while diverging runs create a cacophonous yet melodious burst of angular dynamism.
A few songs run the same ideas into the ground, but standouts like â€œPrecious Timeâ€ are so chock full of hooks and splintered melodic bursts that itâ€™s just about impossible not to like, cryptic lyrical turns notwithstanding. And the albumâ€™s masterstroke, â€œFirst Loveâ€, is an explosive treatise on young love. Weeksâ€™ voice quivers in a blissful fit of yearning and controlled excitement, and itâ€™s utterly contagious.
Colour It In is unabashedly romantic, familiar, and not exactly groundbreaking, but it still somehow manages to curry favor with its unfettered, naive charm.