Calling it a day at their “creative peak”, The Maccabees buck a trend of bands limping towards the finish line with all the grace of a drunk attempting the 110m hurdles. When there’s a temptation to quit - a realisation that the golden days might be over - some bands stubbornly keep at it, plugging away in the hope that they regain their mojo.
Still, that doesn’t make The Maccabees’ split any less surprising. No signs suggested they might be nearing a decline. In fact, fourth album ‘Marks to Prove It’ put them on another platform altogether. They’d always been surrounded by talk about “maturing” and honing their initially rowdy indie into something more fully-formed. This was the first time they’d genuinely achieved it, aging gracefully, if that’s really a term to throw at bands in their late twenties and early thirties.
Just last month, they were given their first shot as festival headliners at Latitude. Going by convention, this is typically followed by bigger shows, increasing demand, giant slots at Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds and around the world. To pull the plug right this second seems both insane and oddly admirable.
“We are very proud to be able to go out on our own terms… off the back of the best and biggest shows we have ever done,” their statement reads. “There have not been fallings out and we are grateful to say that we are not leaving the group behind as a divided force.” They’re not quite ‘doing an LCD’, but there’s no doubt The Maccabees were worshipped by thousands of fans, all convinced they were watching a group capable of hitting even bigger highs.
Perhaps that’s the kind of pressure they were looking to escape. In the business of releasing chart-topping records and headlining festivals, reaching those accolades is never enough. There’s always another step on the success ladder, a reason to keep going that’s usually motivated by status more than anything else. It’s enough to send other groups off the rails.
In that sense, The Maccabees have taken the right exit at the right time - at least from their perspective. We’re left with four great records, each better than the last. The first two, ‘Colour It In’ and 2009’s ‘Wall of Arms’, capture a sweaty indie club heyday left behind with the band’s youth. ‘Given to the Wild’ saw them blooming into a more refined but equally exciting version of their former selves - a tough feat for bands that belong so firmly in one era. ‘Pelican’, their best song, struggles with the pitfalls of “getting older” and wondering how so many years disappeared. These five have always been acutely aware of how time passes, and what kind of impact it might have. That goes a long way to explaining why they’ve called it quits. Who knows, they might be stubborn enough for this to be an absolute cut-off point.
Below, we’ve picked out some of the best The Maccabees songs from the past nine years.