midst the great critical rush to point out that the Klaxons’ much-touted “new rave” approach to indie rock doesn’t involve much actual pushing of the genre into even vaguely rave-y territory, the point that they are actually pushing the genre in a more general sense gets a little lost. Everyone’s pointed out that they occupy the same space in the continuum of modern Britpop as bands like Maximo Park or Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party, but only the devoted have noticed how the Klaxons differ from their aesthetic brethren—the way their songs aim to clearly delineate their layers of instrumentation, for instance, or the primacy they assign to whipping a crowd into a frenzy at the expense of other artistic goals. Which is a shame, really, since it’s this aspect of the Klaxons’ music that’ll be their lasting legacy; they’ve stumbled across a sound that The Kids seem to want to hear, and now all we can do is wait for other bands to follow in their commercial footsteps. Enter, I suppose, the Maccabees.
Colour It In is basically what you’d get if you stripped the Klaxons of their rave signifiers: brash, propulsive, and hell-bent on presenting its audience with at least one bit they can’t get out of their head. In some ways, it’s also a stronger record; freed from the commercial necessity of delivering its big singles as efficiently as possible, it’s certainly an exponentially more fluid listening experience. And, of course, if you aren’t predisposed to hate the formula, you’ve got to admit that the Maccabees know how to wring a good song or two out of it—“X-Ray” in particular stands out as being as ruthlessly radio-ready as anything the Klaxons have ever come up with.
The problem is simply that without the aforementioned new-rave signifiers, there’s just not a lot of stuff on Colour It In to hold your attention, even if you only approached said signifiers from a position of contempt. The Maccabees just aren’t a very confrontational band, which can be problematic when they seem to want to jump out of your speakers and into your head. And when it’s not wholly effective, it can be painfully uninteresting. Up until a few weeks ago, I was actively avoiding Colour It In thanks to the lingering memories of my initial experience with “Latchmere,” an indie-rock misadventure historically uninspiring enough to stand out in my consciousness as such, and I say that as a man who blindly spent cash money having The View’s debut single mailed to Los Angeles from England.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I’d have never had any inclination to pick Colour It In up the first place if I weren’t such an avowed Anglophile; my baseline level of interest for British pop music is higher than normal folks’ if only because I don’t engage with this stuff on a regular, culturally mandated basis, probably not unlike how Dom Passantino latches on to American mall emo. I don’t regret the experience, of course; if nothing else, I’ll definitely be keeping “X-Ray” on my iPod for the foreseeable future. But I also can’t describe it as an essential record-listening experience in any sense of the term; it strikes me as being as artistically necessary to the same extent that self-aware Fall Out Boy fans probably consider Hellogoodbye’s album to be. In the bigger picture, I’m pretty sure that falls under the category of “hardly at all.”
Reviewed by: James Cobo
Reviewed on: 2007-05-16