Following a debut with their references clear for all to hear, Mazes are back later this month promising a more progressive sound… 

Just when you become concerned about the ever encroaching years and obsolescence, fearing your taste in music now belongs well and truly to another age, a band, two in fact – just like the proverbial buses – come along to reassure you of your relevance. If not yours, then at least that of your musical reference points.

Or maybe it’s just that you’re at the point where everything must come round again at some point. Either way, in 2011, two albums (from Yuck and Mazes, respectively) came along which provided both reassurance and music to ears of those bemoaning a lack of bands adhering to templates laid down in the early 90s by American indie rock bands.

It may have been Yuck who made the bigger initial splash, with their fuzzy brand of grunge/college rock, their bassist’s massive hair and their narco-allusions, but for our money, arguably the better band and better album was Mazes, with A Thousand Heys.

“Mazes’ Fat Cat Records debut arrived hook-laden and self-assured”

More in line with Malkmus (Pavement) than Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Mazes’ Fat Cat Records debut arrived hook-laden and self-assured, and seemingly fully formed; one of those albums where the possibilities of singles are many and aren’t shy about shouting up. The pick of that plethora of possibilities – for us at least – are Surf & Turf/Maths Tag, with the at once precocious and effacing refrain “I get off trains and wave, like the Beatles at JFK”, and Boxing Clever, a track tying the first and second halves of the record together very nicely.

Of course, the potential elephant in the room we haven’t mentioned is whether or not this derivative nature is a problem. We suppose it would be if this album were mere pastiche – don’t get us wrong, there are singalonga-Pavement elements which are impossible to miss, but their reverence for that band in-particular comes across more homage than rip-off. Though, admittedly, it’s a fine line at times.

But to talk in these terms alone is to do Mazes a huge disservice and suggests they have only a dearth of their own ideas to bring to the party. While we can’t claim that A Thousand Heys is a progressive record (but then, how many of those truly exist?), it is such a joyous experience as to blast away any such concerns; and once you get over the wear-it-on-their-sleeve references, the record is more layered than a casual first listen would suggest.

Allied to the easy-on-the-ear slacker rock (containing the odd rhyming couplet Malkmus himself would be proud of) there are frequent volleys of well-judged bubblegum pop exuberance here (with some major riffage going on) and repeat listens reveal the kind of confessional lyrics that SM would likely never allow himself quite so readily.

All that said, later this month sees the release of second album Ores & Minerals, of which the band’s Jack Cooper says, “We set about trying to make a record that was far more original and broader than the first one… a representation of all the things that inspired us rather than a small portion,” suggesting that even if we’re happy for them to stay where they are, Mazes are a band with the ambition to match their flair for melody.

Mazes play the Blade Factory @ Camp and Furnace 8pm Friday the 22nd February £6 with support from Mind Mountain and Alien Ballroom

Posted on 06/02/2013 by thedoublenegative