KEYBOARDS! KEYBOARDS EVERYWHERE. Driven, melodic keyboards at the heart of it all, textured ambient keyboards shimmering in the back, dark keyboards, upbeat keyboards, keyboards playing over and over again in your mind long after the final (keyboard) notes of Maybeshewill’s ‘Fair Youth’ have rung. Not that their prominent use should come as much of a surprise to fans of the band, considering even beloved ‘Not For Want Of Trying’’s claim to greatness is in no small part due to Matthew Daly’s hypnotic brand of arpeggiated keys. Nevertheless, there is a sense that their career had thus far been forged on using them as the supporting pillars of their music, a strong foundation on which structure could then be built by way of crunchy guitar riffs and powerful drumming or, alternatively, sweet melodies and the odd vocal section. In that regard, ‘Fair Youth’ stands out as something of a reinvention, an album much less straight-shooting than it is expansive and exploratory, much less grandiose than it is made up of lovingly-crafted subtleties. What it lacks in immediacy, especially compared to their previous efforts, it rather makes up for in depth and coherence.
Indeed, the production side of things is what struck me most on a first listen. Whereas the contrast between the keys and the rest of the instruments used to consistently suggest the first was clashing with the others, ‘Fair Youth’ has everything blended together in seamless unity. Changes from quiet to heavy instances are no longer the making of sudden shifts but of gradual, one is tempted to say organic, morphing. To put it another way, there was very little of the element of surprise with regard to where a Maybeshewill track would inevitably lead, whereas here the songwriting strikes me as aimed towards contemplation more than directness. The most obvious example of this can be found in album closer, and personal favourite, ’Volga’, in which a simple hopeful melody is repeated, gathering momentum and power as delicate guitars, some genuinely terrific drumming and a backing choir are introduced. There is something infinitely more intimidating about a song’s emotional strength emerging in no apparent rush.
In fact that is very much how the whole album plays out: unhurried. Maybeshewill explore the textures of their instruments, the cavernous possibilities of their sound, widening their scope and creating rich tapestries of delicately combined melodies and rhythms. Hear how ’In Amber’ smoothly transitions from one thing into another, weaving a hopeful sentiment with invisible stitching. Let your mind meander to the chilled calmness of ’Asiatic’, enjoy the benefits of escapism thanks to ’Fair Youth’’’s revivifying upbeat melodies, and lick your lips at the prospect of ’In The Blind’’’s tasty horn section. In all likelihood, however, ‘Fair Youth’ is likely to alienate those most ardent supporters of one type of Maybeshewill, but open-minded listeners should be able to look past ‘Fair Youth’’s slight flaws (its second-half is a less appetizing proposition than its first) and might soon find themselves with a new soundtrack to accentuate their own emotional states. Take it from me, it works magic when things are only just starting to look up again, and I can only wish prospective listeners the same emotional impact.
‘Fair Youth’ by Maybeshewill is out now on Superball Music.
Maybeshewill links: Facebook|Twitter|Official Website
Words by James Berclaz-Lewis (@bearclawlewis)