On Saturday The Maitlands opened for FC United. Unfortunately, not in the centre circle, which to be fair, everyone was all in favour of.
They played before the match vs Altrincham under one of the stands, between the cheap bar and the even cheaper bowls stuffed with steaming hot pie. It’s a long concrete tunnel with metal support struts that would have been perfect for a Joy Division gig.
FC United have struck a great concept: getting a local band before each game, enforcing their community minded ethos. Meanwhile for The Maitlands it was a great opportunity to show off their new EP, Bury The Hatchet. This idea has huge potential – combining grass roots football and grass roots music.
The Maitlands lie at a critical nexus point between The Ruts and Roxy Music. Musically fair wide, even if not alphabetically.
To elaborate further, their songs are generally powered by spiky, salty riffs as batted out by Ste Moran, who swipes his guitar with punk enthusiasm, dancing and singing along to the songs while he does it, like a young Steve Diggle he is, but probably on less coke (I saw The Buzcocks at The Apollo once and he was beyond Venus).
The other Ste, Ackley (noted for his lush pink telecaster) builds on this punk basis and adds textures and rhythms, without bringing The Maitlands close to a psych shoegaze mire.
When these two guitars interact it takes a song in two directions, but this split works and the songs are allowed to inhabit a fascinating hinterland.
This is especially evident on ‘Kisses For The Masses’ which most typifies this Roxy Music parallel. A shockingly classy song layered around chiming guitars that doesn’t fit the concrete bunker they’re playing in, but the strength of the melody makes it work no matter what the setting.
Saul, the drummer, is quietly impressive, skillful without showboating and make full use of his kit. He’s very Paul Thompson, so again, the Roxy Music link holds strong.
Matt on bass was left a little low in the mix but as always thrusts The Maitlands along on a purring little motor.
And Carl, the looming front man? Buoyed by his band and the confidence he has in them, is taking the art of singing pop songs in several unexpected directions. The songs are riff based and catchy which allows him the leeway to slip around in the songs like an eel in a tumble dryer.
His song construction interests me as their new EP shows he is favouring a style which, while not eschewing chorus’, instead chops the chorus’ up and places them at various points of the song. ‘Dangerously Sober’, with which they opened the set is a great example of how he takes a set of phrases such as “oh Jim we’re back on the Columbian marching powder” and “don’t tell the Pope, let’s keep it as an inside joke” and turns them into mini choruses firing through the first half of the song. Then the song stops and starts again with some a new set witticisms, re-emerging from a fog of “vaporised nicotine” like the hero of the song. ‘Kisses For The Masses’ performs the same trick, and Carl starts the song as if we’re already in the final reel, structurally it’s very close to ‘Speedway’ by Morrissey.
These acts of lyrical deconstruction typify the Maitlands approach to combining a good time with breaking the rules. Because The Maitlands never forget that a band is their to give a crowd a good time, they start with the witty, punchy ‘Dangerously Sober’ and their most pop-centred tune ‘She’s A Ghost’ leaving the more experimental ‘Daunting In Derker’ til the back-end til when they have won people over with the riffs and words.
The “encore” is the oldie ‘Arrested Development’ which is the best I’ve ever seen it. Starting
with its elongated bass solo (there they go mucking about with the conventions again) it whips up an incredible live performance for before 3 in the afternoon, replete with Ste Ackley’s Johnny Thunders style pick scrapes. Carl’s vocal performance is intense, knowing every fibre of the song, the words flowing out and tripping into Ian Curtis style automatic language.
They leave to a hearty response and have won over a set of fans who had come to see a footy game (they lost), but The Maitlands won.