Mazes can be a frustrating band to like at times. Their 2011 debut, A Thousand Heys was a brilliantly frantic slice of lo-fi power pop at a time when so-called “guitar music” was at its most nascent, and served as a big jolt in the arm for Manchester’s Indie scene at the time. Subsequent efforts though, in particular 2013’s pair of albums Ores & Minerals and Better Ghosts have found the band in what we’ll call a ‘transitional’ phase, more full of good ideas than good songs. While they’d very clearly been honing their sound and getting much better at what they do, a lot of the tracks sounded either under-developed or overcooked- all the ingredients of a good song were there, but just needed a little extra something to make them shine.
However, deep cuts aside, one area Mazes have been consistently excellent in are their singles, and their latest effort Astigmatism is no different. Beginning with a bang and ending with one too, the song packs a sense of dynamism and energy that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle in their longer releases. Kicking things off with a galloping, country-tinged drum beat and a simple 3 note riff, there’s a sense of immediacy from the word go as the song drags you into its rhythm. The vocals, usually quite threadbare in most Mazes songs, are pushed up front and bolstered by cheery harmonies and a wonderfully irreverent lyric about losing one’s eyesight (though what being “a winning quiz team” has to do with going blind is unclear). There’s a nice little guitar lick to break up the action and a warped, backwards-sounding solo that’s straight out of The Beatles’ playbook.
There’s a lot to be said for a well-structured song, and it’s a testament to the track’s composition that every part of it seems to fit together seamlessly. It rips through its three minute length in what feels like half the time and just begs for a replay; and it seems a safe bet that it’ll end up on many a #summervibes playlist over the coming months. If this is what the band are transitioning into then they’re in for a strong back half to the year.
Words by Tom Sanders (@Sanderrrsss)