Review Summary: cute songs.
My whole experience of Maps & Atlases reads like an off-base rockumentary cliché, but anyway: I understand that Maps & Atlases are not the band they once were. This seems like an absolutely ridiculous statement to make of a band that has done little more to their sound than nuance it; the guitar tapping is still present, muffled under the song
though it may be, and the experiments have just been restricted to compact boxes to move about in. The band hasn’t split itself down its side like it may seem, rather it’s just suppressed the big and the bold into the background to make room for (sure, go ahead and use the word) a “pop” song. It’s the toning down of it all, though, that makes it so criminal, and so when they nuance, they nuance hard
. Maps & Atlases were once something of an imposing band, which means they were in your face and clever and they did these things to you
; their second and most noted EP was aggressive and progressive, trying a whole lot at raucous speeds. Now, Maps & Atlases are a band able
; namely, they are “danceable,” the band that sat around and listened to Prince a shi
t-tonne. Beyond the immaculate construction of their record, we do what we want with Maps & Atlases these days; the fans who claim they’ve given up on this band but for a live show are just as righteous fans as those of us who embrace this new band who made “Winter,” the band with supposedly funky choruses. Whatever the result is, I recognise the lame cliché on this one: it’s like listening to two different bands.
Cliché number two: that side of Maps & Atlases that died (by being quieter than usual) has made Maps & Atlases the band I was always hoping they would evolve into. There were moments on Perch Patchwork
where a very bright light shone down: songs as showy as “Pigeon” suddenly sounded like warm home recordings, even in their cerebral nature; it felt like listening to a band making the greatest equation on how to party. Awful math rock jokes aside, there’s something of a super-group to be had of a Maps & Atlases who can make a visceral impact rather than just construct one. People have said you can dance to Beware and Be Grateful
, which essentially means you can feel things as you listen to it; you can hear
the patterns of the saddest moments, like Davison’s ‘I, I, I’ repeating as an endless transmission in “Remote and Dark Years.” Yes, it’s not something you need to read in a review, but Beware and Be Grateful
is even more a warm, touching record than the ones made before it. As Davison loses it on the guitar-crackling “Old Ash” and lets his voice loudly preach and then crumble in a heap, a new vision of Maps & Atlases comes beaming out. It’s a passionate band standing on the top of all their wacky, wonderful architecture and caring profoundly about it.
These aren’t ferocious songs and they aren’t always playing with everything on the forefront, and it’s compelling to see that; the band has rounded up the edges of their songs and put them into the ground, so that “Fever” is as many times as complex as “Everyplace Is A House” but comes out as a song with a very conventional beauty to it: no guitar noodling, maybe, but so many little things going on within it that constitute bro-y complexity, just in a better way: so many guitar patterns and little programmed noises to be followed. Beware and Be Grateful
is easy to dismiss as too easy, or not the band we once knew, but it feels to me like the band that finally found themselves saying what they want to say and in the way they want to. Which is why, chief among all clichés, I consider this somehow representative of the band as a whole, no matter how different it’s all gotten: a band showing off as a secondary objective, playing songs with immense warmth and love. We can speak of the impossibility of reconciling version one of this band to version two, but for me, Beware and Be Grateful
is just a band growing. Growth, at its most disgustingly ordinary and clichéd. Heartfelt geniuses that these guys are, they sell it.