Monday, April 11, 2011

MAZES "A Thousand Heys"

Without much hoopla or fanfare at last year’s In The City convention the news came out that Mazes had been signed by Fat Cat Records. A great pairing on paper: a major indie label known for supporting artistic independence with a band exploding with ideas and activities (not the least of these being not one but two of their own record labels). Glad to report that “A Thousand Heys” released today delivers on that promise handsomely.

Included amongst the 13 tracks are some of their early singles first released on Sex is Disgusting and Suffering Jukebox labels. Here those songs, particularly ‘Bowie Knives’, are freed from their lo-fi murk of old and given added pop-sheen sparkle and pace. However if you’re not familiar with those versions you may still plonk a big ‘lo-fi’ sign on this album on first listen. Exhibit A being the fuzzy-edged guitars buzzing intensely throughout, sharp but tuneful on ‘'Most Days' and 'Boxing Clever’ or dark and scuzzy on ‘Wait Anyway'.

The four-piece (Jack Cooper on guitar and vocals, Jarin Tabata on guitar, Conan Roberts on bass and Neil Robinson on drums) are steeped in American art-punk guitar rock from the last two decades and have been touring their socks off supporting the likes of Deerhunter, Sic Alps, Crocodiles, Times New Viking and most recently Dum Dum Girls. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to find short and pacy songs (the single ‘Most Days’ clocks in at 1.47, ‘Vampire Jive’ makes it look indulgent at a spritely 1.03) or cryptic, multi-part Malkmus-like song titles such as ‘Surf and Turf / Maths Tag’ and ‘Summer Hits or J+J Don’t Like’. Like Pavement though they also know how to pen a great pop hook. For all its DIY aesthetic and throwaway casual cool, the album is also chock-full of corking ear-worming melodies and summery good times (despite being recorded in December).

Any occasional moments of bitter-sweet nostalgia or darker undercurrents are briskly swept away by the happy, poppy momentum. Towards the end of the latter half of the album the tempo slows somewhat with the never-want-to-get-of-bed pledge of ‘No Way’ and the raw slouch of ‘Death House’ – either a welcome change of pace or a minor failing to maintain the summery pop thrills depending on how generous you are feeling. The exuberant surf-pop of final song ‘Til I'm Dead’ even sandwiched between extended intro and outro restores that fidgety, fizzing energy with ease.

Mazes also sound fantastically – even infectiously - happy on this album. And so they should. It’s a cracking full-length debut that will soundtrack not just this summer but many to come.

Mazes - Vampire Jive by Paul Lilley

Mazes "A Thousand Heys" [BUY]

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