It’s refreshing to note that in amongst the deluge of nu-rave, electro-pop, and chillwave in recent years, there are still bands who believe the warmth and intimacy of the humble guitar cannot be replaced by synths, Pro Tools or GarageBand. Indeed, it seems the traditional line up of guitar, bass and drums is making something of a comeback in fashionable circles, if it ever really went away. Certain labels, such as One Little Indian and Fatcat Records, have been at the forefront of this DIY garage rock ethos, and their latest offering, four-piece Mazes, have dropped their debut after creating quite a stir towards the end of last year.
If you’ve already gotten into them, you might be disappointed to learn that there is nothing here that packs the visceral punch of ‘Painting Of Tupac Shakur’, and they seem to have abandoned any pretence to thrash punk. That’s not to say they can’t still do frenzied or powerful – ‘Till I’m Dead’ has a dark, menacing opening before a quick change of pace, while ‘Wait Anyway’ recalls L7’s ‘Shitlist’ and would be my track of choice for driving at 100mph along a deserted Californian highway – but there is a pop sensibility at the heart of the album, and it’s something they wear well. The jangly intro of ‘Bowie Knives’ is an instant pop gem, as are the treble heavy guitars of ‘Cenetaph’. Even the minute-long ‘Vampire Jive’ is more reminiscent of the British Invasion than a group of DIY noiseniks.
If there is a criticism to be made, it’s that perhaps their influences are a little too obvious; they clearly have excellent taste, but you can sense the ghosts of The Buzzcocks, Television, The Kinks, and even early REM hovering in the background. However, that they’ve managed to put their own stamp on the garage rock sound is quite a feat for such a young band, and at no point do you get the feeling they are guilty of copy and paste. Their love of lo-fi and the warmth associated with analogue recording shines through, no doubt thanks to producer Ben Phillips, and I’m sure in time their own voice will only get stronger. In the meantime, this is a pretty damn good start.
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