First Love: A Fond Farewell to the Maccabees

A fond farewell to the last men standing of the indie-rock era.

 

Four days ago, The Maccabees played their final show at Alexandra Palace in North London. After over ten years in the business, they decided to call it a day, having released four critically acclaimed albums. For many of a certain age and inclination, this marked the death knell of a time and a place; a time when you could buy pints for three pounds in Holloway at age 15, a time when the Camden Crawl ruled supreme, a time when music was young, bouncy, hopeful and fun. The Maccabees continually progressed from their debut Colour It In, which showcased a sort of Adderall-infused Orange Juice/Aztec Camera sound, underpinned by Orlando Weeks’ mournful baritone, all the way to their most recent record Marks to Prove It, which demonstrated a definite progression – yet somehow it was the same band. They managed a decade in the industry – but I wanted to highlight some of the bands who didn’t.

 

In 2007 this was music that spoke to a spotty, lonely teen in the South Midlands

 

I remember being fourteen years old and cycling from my miserable little South Midlands village to the nearest ‘town’ and listening to ‘First Love’, along with the early demos of Bombay Bicycle Club, Cajun Dance Party and Jamie T, all carefully downloaded from that bastion of illicit media, LimeWire. And I could sense something there. A stirring in the air, a change in the winds. I had been reading the NME (when it was actually a good new music magazine) for a couple of years by this point, and was desperately trying to educate myself in the ways of music – though carefully avoiding Selfish Cunt and Dustin’s Bar Mitzvah, and not being particularly interested in Manic Street Preachers. It felt like it was time for ‘us’. I didn’t know who or what ‘us’ was, but I knew something had to happen.

 

I don’t quite know when it did, but there was an almighty explosion around 2007 (or, at least it seemed like it). I had been too young for the Strokes and the Libertines, and Arctic Monkeys had set sail before I was of age. Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs already felt established – what was left for us youth?

 

Bombay Bicycle Club, Cajun Dance Party, Hadouken!, Pull Tiger Tail, Larrikin Love, The Holloways, The Metros, Jack Penate, Late of the Pier, Good Shoes, Kid Harpoon, Patrick Wolf, I Was a Cub Scout, The Teenagers, The Rumble Strips, Mumm-Ra – these are only the ones that come to mind. And looking at the list, what a whacky variety of genres! Skiffle from Larrikin Love and Jack Penate, proto-grime from Hadouken!, parping ska from the Rumble Strips, Postal Service-styled misery electro pop from I Was a Cub Scout, and then whatever genre you’d describe Late of the Pier and Patrick Wolf as. Maybe looking at that list, you will roll your eyes. ‘Oh that’s not cool at all’ you might think. ‘He listened to all that? How embarrassing!’ you might say to yourself, as you flip over your collection of Sun Ra demos on 8-track. Shut up, I say.

 

2007 was a different time for us all. This was our music. This was music that spoke to a spotty, lonely teen in the South Midlands. 5 years in boarding school, and these bands got me through those horrifying early years. I spent my weekends dreaming of all the all-ages shows I could be going to in Camden, my summers desperate to ‘do’ the Camden Crawl. Poring over copies of the NME that I would buy on afternoons in Oxford, rushing back to school to use the Macs at school to download as many of the new bands as possible from the Hype Machine (remember what a wealth of music that was!), downloading it all onto my iPod and basking in these newfound voices. I remember a friend and I had a sort of competition to see how many times we could listen to ‘Let’s Lightning’ by Pull Tiger Tail – he managed to do 62 plays in 2 days. I think I got to 54. This was our dedication to this music. It was exciting, there were new bands popping out of the ground at every turn, new 7”s to buy, new tracks to download off the Hype Machine, new demos to listen to on Myspace.

 

It felt like a time when every second person in Camden was in a band.

 

And then something happened. Many of these bands released fine debut albums (with Larrikin Love’s ‘the Freedom Spark’ perhaps being one of the best of that era). But then… nothing. The gigs dried up. The Myspace updates slowed down. Soon, you read worrying reports in the NME about bands breaking up – my heart stopped when I heard Cajun Dance Party broke up. The same with Pull Tiger Tail. The same with most of those bands listed above – Larrikin Love, the Rumble Strips, I Was a Cub Scout, The Metros, the Holloways, Good Shoes, Late of the Pier and the Teenagers are all no more. Was it an over-saturation of the market? It did feel like a time when every second person in Camden was in a band. Did the pound signs in these hopefuls eyes get the better of them? Some might argue ‘maybe they just weren’t that good?’ – I pooh-pooh these naysayers. These were bands who were there for us at a peculiar time in some of our lives. The dispossessed and creative, the loners looking for love but not knowing what to do with it if they found it (I never did), the square pegs in round holes – this was music for everyone, anyone.

 

 

The Maccabees outlived them all. 10 years later, there they are, playing their final show. The bell has tolled for this glorious time. We face bleak and uncertain times ahead, and in my honest opinion, they are made even bleaker without the presence of the Maccabees. My heart bleeds for the passing of this time. RIP Maccabees, gone too soon.

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