Fans grieve when bands break up, but rejoice when they reunite. U.K. post-rockers Maybeshewill had called it quits in 2016, reuniting briefly for a concert (because when Robert Smith asks, people say yes). But now, seven years after Fair Youth, the quintet returns with a message of hope for a lost world.
What could spark such a turnabout? The answer is global warming. Yes, the band had been encased in a glacier, but then global temperatures began to rise, and the ice melted. No, not really ~ but not far off. Seeing the danger to their world ~ political apathy, blind eyes, systemic injustices ~ the musicians felt a “weary exasperation.” But as anyone familiar with their past work is aware, Maybeshewill is not a dour band. Their new album operates as indictment and encouragement, depending on whom is listening. “Just keep going,” they write; keep marching, voting, protesting, whatever it takes. The apocalypse is still a forecast, not yet history.
Maybeshewill has always been a solid post-rock entity, starting their amazing tear in 2008. Their early work was marked by a sense of humor and tongue-in-cheek titles (there may be some regret over “Paris Hilton Sex Tape”). But themes of politics and hope have always been apparent as well (“Our History Will Be What We Make Of It,” “Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony”). Today’s titles may be more world-weary (“The Last Hours”) but hint at classic themes ~ for example, the nod to Camus in “Invincible Summer.” The quintet’s accumulated wisdom and unified focus add even more power to an already muscular sound.
Extra touches abound, producing a welcome dynamic contrast. At two points in the album, one early and one late, reality clicks in. “Zarah” contains a spoken word sample that bears the theme, while the penultimate “The Last Hours” incorporates the sound of a ticking clock. While it’s easy to jump to the Doomsday Clock, the gentle piano of “Tomorrow” suggests a brighter future, as do the chirping birds that bring the set to a close.
In the middle is drama aplenty, best exemplified by “Refuturing,” the album’s featured cut. Those who admire post-rock with brass and strings will be in their glory. The first boom moment arrives at 2:02, an early entry in this compact track; the softer breakdown is unexpected. Other highlights include the electronic-inflected overture “We’ve Arrived at the Burning Building” (full circle from 2008’s “We Called for an Ambulance But a Fire Engine Came”) and the harmonies woven into “The Weight of Light” and “Green Unpleasant Land.”
Will this be their final published work? Maybeitwill, maybeitwon’t. Either way, fans can treasure this surprise return, and link it to the thought that No Feeling Is Final. In other words, if the band turned things around, so can we. (Richard Allen)