Two years ago, The Maccabees were real contenders. The Brighton band had the backing of all the right people, just the right level of press excitement and a couple of dapper indie-pop tunes to back up the ballyhoo. So what happened? How did a band with such potential emerge from the studio with an album that fulfilled none of it? One of two tracks aside, their 2007 debut 'Colour It In' (and its subsequent pointless reissues) was merely indie-landfill-by-numbers.
Now Orlando, Rupert, Felix, Hugo and Sam (no, really) are back with its follow-up, and the difference is palpable. It's all too easy to credit the producer with a change of direction in such cases, but Markus Dravs - who has produced several of Bjork's albums, as well as Arcade Fire's 'Neon Bible' - undoubtedly adds new facets to the quintet's sound.
Opener 'Love You Better' alone displays the new depths plumbed; Orlando Weeks's trembling quiver is still evident, but his bandmates' harmonies and the addition of horns to their jaunty guitar work adds flavour to a once-bland formula. Closing track 'Bag of Bones' is similarly symbolic of their change of attitude, a gentle, meandering number with plenty of atmospheric 'aaahhh ahhhhs' added for good measure.
Sandwiched in between those two tracks are songs of genuine interest: 'Can You Give It' chugs, flickers and flows exquisitely, while the title track is a cleverly-structured number that holds back until its dramatic brass-laden climax. The Maccabees have somehow made the transformation from standard indie brat band, to one that has the colour and imagination that their debut was sorely lacking. Hurrah.