Did you know that the Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich used to hide anti-Soviet messages in his music? This is most obvious in his Symphony No. 5, which is a parody of the Stalin regime. I couldn’t help thinking that something similar may have been at play as I listened to the first track, Act One, on Maff’s new EP (also called Maff). It gets off to a good start, with a repetition of the three notes D, E and C sounding almost like bells pealing. This track feels surprisingly buoyant for rock and the undertones are hopeful and optimistic; but then comes the disappointment; nothing new happens. Those three notes, D, E and C just keep on playing; they never stop. Sometimes the drumbeat may alter slightly, some new synth may be added in under the guise of creativity, or maybe the C will be played up an octave, but that’s where the variety ends.
So my imagination begins to kick in. ‘Is this some kind of secret code – a hidden political protest? What is Maff trying to tell us?’ I wonder to myself. Very likely nothing at all – this is just a plain old dull track. It ends as though it never even happened.
This repetitive pattern seems to dominate the EP, and not a particularly innovative pattern at that. There is nothing creative or new about this album and I feel as though I’ve heard every track before. The chord progressions could not be more predictable and here’s another gripe; up until track 8, the lyrics are totally unintelligible. I thought this must have been the fault of my speakers, but when I tried another set; the sound was exactly same. This is particularly noticeable on track 2, Linger Around, in which the vocals and guitar have the exact same melody. I found this disappointing, because Linger Around is actually a decent enough song.
The noise pop and shoegaze genres that the band site as influences really shine through here and it definitely feels like a throwback to the 1980’s. Though for this track to work, either the guitar or vocals needs to go or change. Having the two together is not only unnecessary, but also blocks both from showing the listener its full potential. So overall, track 2 didn’t offer anything significantly better than the first.
The EP continues to plod along like this until track 6, which I think is the point at which the EP begins to pick up a little. It is a decidedly more spirited number and far more interesting that anything heard previously. This improvement continues, with tracks 7 and 8 also offering something markedly more vibrant. I can certainly hear a Sonic Youth influence and possibly a little U2 in there as well. These last few songs feel a little like sway along stadium anthems – I feel compelled to take out a lighter and start waving it in the air.
Overall I do not feel as though I have heard something great – this EP is really quite ordinary. There’s nothing noteworthy or remarkable about it, but it’s acceptable enough. I will point out that this is Maff’s first EP, so I suppose that they’re still trying to figure out their sound. I expect that there will be better things to come, so I will be looking out for any future releases.