Summer 2009 sees Maybeshewill release ‘Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony’, less than 12 months after their debut LP ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ hit the shelves.
The band have once again eschewed the ‘industry’ route whilst making this record - Shunning studios in favour of a DIY approach to recording, mixing and mastering the material in their rehearsal space on a budget of literally nothing. Taking this ethos even further, the band choose to book their own shows and run their own Press and PR company (Robot Needs Home) rather than employ anyone else to do these jobs for them.
‘Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony’ once again takes the wide-screen expanses and beauty of Post-Rock and combines it with the immediacy and brutality of hardcore. This is an intentionally ‘accessible’ instrumental record - The climaxes and breakdowns condensed into a concise thirty minutes of noise.
It’s difficult for an instrumental band to make a serious social statement without the use of lyrics, but ‘Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony’ is just that. Set against the background of the current recession, and born out of six months of touring their debut LP, this album is a journal of four twenty-something’s thoughts and experiences during tough times.
This is Leicester instrumentalists Maybeshewill’s second full-length, and judging by their choice of spoken samples, they’re pretty certain the world is fucked. The closing title track features a quite detailed critique of the ills of modern society, while ‘Our History Will Be What We Make Of It’ observes humanity’s fallibility via samples of renowned American broadcaster Edward R Murrow, and an excerpt from 1972 film Young Winston. It’s a powerful technique; however, in comparison to last year’s ‘Not For Want Of Trying’, these eight songs don’t quite fulfill the band’s undoubted potential. Still, they shouldn’t be too heavily criticised for setting their own high standards.
The album art for Maybeshewill's second LP reveals a fair amount about the record it conceals. Compared to Not For Want Of Trying's floral elegance, the stamp of a pair of lungs is both iconic and overtly simpler than its pre-decessor. But under scrutiny, the diagram on the front of Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony is labelled – the trachea, the right lung, the left lung, the primary bronchi... and right at the bottom of the left-most organ, in letters almost too small to read, 'the feeling that the world is collapsing in on itself and we are powerless to stop it'.
Because the Leicester post-rockers' second offering is undoubtedly a progression, and a clever one at that; the 65daysofstatic influence so often mentioned – perhaps most notable on last album's Heartflusters – is given a veritable sledgehammer to its guts, in the most literal sense possible. Four-Part Harmony drops some of Trying's softer moments in search of something that sounds darker, much heavier, and much angrier. The first two tracks here barely pause to catch breath, furious drumming and metal riffs abound and despite the occasional breakdown the music maintains a hugely successful momentum. It's not until a minute into This Time Last Year that the band take the volume down a notch and remind us of their ability to pen an unforgettable cyclic piano riff; the track, which builds and drops numerous times owing largely to the bass, is the climax of the first third of the album, complete with a passionate spoken-word sample and a last-ditch explosion that segues perfectly into the glitchy introduction of Accept And Embrace, which also happens to be the record's most uplifting song.
The second half of the record especially is unrelenting in its atmosphere, whether that be achieved through monotonous electronic-sounding beats or hard, fast and dominant guitar work, and this emotion, this lack of release results in a phenomenal climax when the record is listened from start to finish. Though not as individually striking as its pre-decessor as title-track, Sing The Word Hope is more of a brilliantly executed finale than a stand-alone song. Its reflective, mellow piano and the optimistic guitars merge to confuse the senses, and there's one more surprise in order. Underneath a lament on the state of society (including the cutting line 'On average... we have never read a newspaper, and we have never used our chance to vote,') the guitars swell and build momentum, the piano remains potent and the rhythm section provides the climax.
So what of Maybeshewill's political edge, so evident in the album art text? Well, it's plain to see that there is more said here through samples than on Not For Want Of Trying – there are three spoken-word samples, all of them adamant and intriguing. Our History Will Be What We Make Of It dissolves at times into a rant but the other samples are carefully chosen to reflect the music's mood. Where This Time Last Year's instrumental inter-play becomes hectic and climactic, the two voices overlap and dispute greed and over-indulgence's effect on the world we live in; where the record needs a fitting closing message they find one and tie it with aplomb to lulls and explosions in the accompanying guitar work. It's well-executed stuff.
Most post-rock sounds like the soundtrack to a moment. Godspeed You! Black Emperor conjure the end of the world on F# A# ∞. Mono's Hymn To The Immortal Wind sounds like it should accompany an epic naval adventure of some sort. But Four-Part Harmony is different. Its relentlessness and sense of confinement do seem apocalyptic, but instead of burning skylines, the explosions here are greed, hypocrisy and arrogance. Maybeshewill's political message is abstract, but not in the sense that it is confused; the band clearly have a defined ethos, and a cohesive one at that. This album specifically is one which realises and represents failure as a product of human inaction and apathy rather than one of individual lamentable decisions.
If Sing The Word Hope sounds depressing, that's because its backdrop (i.e. the current social climate) is largely dark and its first 35 minutes of crushing, angry guitars and haunting piano largely revolve around that image. But seconds from the end of the record, it proclaims that there is always solace to be found in 'friends and co-conspirators'. It's inspirational and it's warm and it's true, and Four-Part Harmony is beautiful because of it. This is a record to be played loud and all the way through, to ignite activism and to send a couple of shockwaves through your headphones and down your spine. It's not quite a classic, but if Not For Want Of Trying seemed to suggest Maybeshewill were capable of one, then its follow-up solidifies that fact, and does so fantastically.