Studio Dog Records, 2010, CD album, 34m 38s, £7
Raising Maisie are not badass, intimidating or scary in any way. Neither are most hardcore, extreme metal or gangsta rap artists, but Raising Maisie aren’t pretending. Pretension is no part of their uncomplicated, well crafted, concise and extremely entertaining pop-rock.
Regular readers of my reviews will be well aware that I have tastes that encompass the experimental and the extreme, but what I really appreciate is the creativity and artistic integrity that takes musicians to those places. It takes an equal measure of those things to achieve a disciplined slice of joyful pop precision like this.
Piano is featured as prominently as guitar on this album, if not more so, which lends a more structured feel to the arrangements than is the norm in indie circles. Chord progressions are well written, with a strong sense of forward motion, and some real care has gone into charting a melodic path through them: this is proper, grown-up musicianship, in a band which I’m guessing is young and relatively inexperienced.
Instrumental resources are creatively exploited to develop a range of textures, creating pleasing variety within a consistent band sound: acoustic and electric guitar, both clean and overdriven, and a variety of keyboard sounds (including some juicy analogue noises) all find their place. The playing is very song focussed, rhythmically tight and dynamically controlled, with little or no showing off, although the guitarist pulls out some tasty licks occasionally. From a nerdy muso perspective the drummer is the star of the show, and not just for his volcanic solo in ‘Jump Out’. They say a band is never better than its drummer: on this album every drum part is perfectly judged with a light feel that makes the grooves lift propulsively, and a precise execution that provides an unshakeable foundation for band and dancers alike.
The songs don’t attempt to tackle any big themes: they deal with the experience of being young, energetic and horny in a way that eschews cleverness or analysis, and simply presents observations with wit, amusement and sincerity. Although there are plenty of romantic disappointments in these lyrics, you get the impression the characters in the songs will bounce back pretty much unscathed: a wistful optimism is the predominant mood.
The vocal delivery is charismatic and committed, with a strong sense of sincerity and engagement, and a marked lack of bombast or rock ‘n’ roll swagger. It will be too self-consciously fey for some tastes, but those are probably not the tastes this music is aimed at in any case. As with the instrumental work there is a commendable dynamic control and sense of dramatic narrative, that pulls the listener into the songs, and engages their attention by doing interesting but uncontroversial things for three minutes or so (and there’s no song on the album as long as four minutes long).
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Raising Maisie getting some widespread attention with this well produced album. They fit quite easily into a marketing bracket without being at all generic, which is to say it’s clear they haven’t set out to make their music to a blueprint, or to address a demographic. These musicians love pop music, and that love comes across in every note they play.