Maps & Atlases – Beware & Be Grateful

Stream – Winter One of my favourite games as a kid was Ikari Warriors. You controlled these two dudes that looked like twin siblings, with only the colour of their bandannas (blue and red…just like the siblings in Double Dragon, I say shenanigans!) to tell them apart.  They crash land in some tropical country stricken by unrest (i.e. a dictator not needed anymore by the CIA) and they shoot their way out of the situation.

In a way, that’s Maps & Atlases new album, Beware & Be Grateful. Sure, it might feel different to Perch Patchwork, but it’s only a palette swap, the beat and noodling machine that is Maps & Atlases is still in quite good shape and as deadly as Hulk Hogan‘s boat in Thunder in Paradise (another thing with two heroes…is this a pattern in this review?), with the breezy tropical rumblings provided by the band accompanying us in this trippy experience.

Always a point of contention for people just getting into this band is the vocal delivery. Never had a problem with Dave Davison‘s voice, but I’m aware that a lot of people run away from this band because of his voice, possibly to the same hill that people who listen to The Hold Steady and decide it’s not their cup of tea run towards. I think it fits the music quite well (that goes for Craig Finn too!).

‘Old & Gray’ will be the hazing for the newcomers: 5+ minutes, a meandering structure and not a single hook to grab unto. If you give it time, the song will show it is made of hooks and sticky as toffee noises. It’s a lovely track that starts silent but becomes loud and deadly like a riptide.

We mentioned before the peppy, 80’s like atmosphere of ‘Fever’ and if a song could sell the idea of this band to the uninitiated, this one (or ‘Vampires’) could be a great gateway to the lovely ideas peddled by Maps & Atlases. Indeed, it’s the good vibrations and sunshine that this music has that really can’t make you hate it. ‘Silver self’ is such a fun track and ‘Be three years old’ makes me have an exact recollection of being that old and recklessly driving a tricycle around the house, nearly running over the cat (he was called ‘Bichito’) and knocking a rather hefty TV (a crappy Zenith) on a rather brittle vase. Uh.

But back to this album. ‘Bugs’ is a good old time (another short track, an endangered species in this album) and I just love the guitar work here. ‘Old Ash’ is Maps & Atlas being gorgeously dreamy, begging for a remix that only add some steel drumming (and perhaps a piña colada) to go with it. The ending is simply sensational, slowly stripping away all instruments and leaving the last one to clean up the mess that was the afterparty. Maybe that’s why ‘Important’ is so slow, as you can’t help but sulk that the good times have now come to an end.

Beware & Be Grateful is an album in all senses. Not only is it very cohesive, but it also demands to be listened on one go, no song skipping, no overplaying the same track 4 times in a row (understandable and forgiveable in ‘Vampires’, though). Get this one if you need a throwback to what an album should sound like in terms of cohesiveness. Also grab it if you need to dream of sunnier times, as the cold spell ruining our Easter break is no laughing matter.

Words: Sam “but is it art?” Valdes Lopez

Maps & Atlases WebsiteTwitterMyspaceLast.fmBandcampSpotify.

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