Reviewing records can really make you go away and listen to the band’s peer group, to place them in context, look for an over-arching stylistic umbrella and, of course, slag off the lesser bands of any time and place.
Mazes are one of the best bands of the recent UK DIY resurgence, and they are far better than some of the Dalston bands they have recently joined down in the capital. I will not divulge exactly who they are better than, suffice to say I’d place Mazes quite near the top of a current London DIY band league table.
Similarly to those alluded to above, Mazes tend to mine a period of music just following the grunge explosion, but have gone down the, shall we say, slacker-pop route, rather than the path of harder rock. More carefree sounding and certainly with less poseur inclinations.
‘A Thousand Heys’ starts great with Go Betweens, continues great for a sustained run of hits - Surf & Turf, Most Days, Bowie Knives and Summer Hits, and ends great with ‘Til I’m Dead. Wait Anyway and Boxing Clever aren’t so good, but then Vampire Jive kicks in, and Cenotaph - potentially the album highlight - is sandwiched between the weaker moments anyway.
Eva (under thirty seconds long) is the kind of song that should show up on more records. Not all songs should be three minutes, and mostly Mazes songs are shorter. Many of the tunes here could be deemed perfect pop songs. There’s some summery hits, some extended jams and some ragers.
Having seen Mazes play some rough and ready gigs in front rooms and small stages and heard one-take records that could be termed low-fidelity, it still isn’t a surprise that the songwriting and attention to detail hold up to proper studio production. In fact, the smoother sound really showcases the songs fully, and Mazes’ potential is better exposed. Main man Jack’s vocals even sound less high when recorded through good studio microphones.
‘Til I’m Dead, as mentioned before, is a perfect finale, building up before breaking into an adrenaline rush of a climax. It's fitting when an album closer is also a set closer, and Mazes have been most successful here in accurately representing a collection of songs honed through a year or two of playing them live. There’s a familiar formula at work: band releases limited, unpolished singles to acclaim, signs to a larger label, re-records the pick of the singles in a cleaner way, and therefore finds a broader audience - but where many bands can't make the step up, Mazes can, and their songs deserve it.