There’s this song by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (remember them?) whose title I always liked: “The Old New Un.” I always figured that it meant they’d taken an old idea and made something fresh from it; then again, maybe it’s about fish and chips. Anyway, I heard that song not long ago, and it made me think about Maritime. Dan Didier, who plays the drums, said something to me—and he said it sincerely, not giving me some marketing spiel—about how Heresy and the Hotel Choir, his band’s third album, really feels like their first.
Why is that, you ask? There’s a reason, and it doesn’t discount the contemplative, mellow chewiness of 2004’s Glass Floor or the comparatively brash rockingess of 2006’s We, The Vehicles. It’s just to say that those records (and subsequent tours) were inspired by the energy of flux, and this one is about solidity. Glass Floor took tentative steps away from Didier and singer-guitarist Davey von Bohlen’s old band, the damn-near-legendary Promise Ring (remember them?), adding former Dismemberment Plan bassist Eric Axelson to the mix. Slow chaos followed: Somewhere in there, Axelson left; other people came and went, all amicably. A string of superstar guitarists did some Maritime business: Mike Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Owen), Matt Clark (Pinebender, Bella Lea), Mike Feurstack (Wooden Stars, Snailhouse), Slash (GnR, I’m lying). For a while, the current drummer of The Arcade Fire, Jeremy Gara, played keyboards. (I’m not making that up.) Naturally, amid all the personnel hoo-ha, energies changed.
But here’s why you’re looking at something through fresh eyes, and why Maritime is, too: Things settled, as things do. Justin Klug took the four-string slot, and longtime contributor Dan Hinz—he played guitar on Vehicles—became full-fledged member Dan Hinz. (He is known to his bandmates and the Japanese as “Chicken Dan.”) And the band started writing songs like bands should—in a room together, rocking like the young people they still are. When these four got done writing songs, they didn’t need to recruit people or scramble to get a lineup together. They just went out and played them, together, and shot them full of life.
THEN, as is the proper etiquette for these things, they started recording them, enlisting the help of producer Stuart Sikes, who’s worked with lots of bands that don’t sound like Maritime, including Cat Power and Modest Mouse. (He also produced “The Rat” by The Walkmen, whose intro you’ll find was inadvertently borrowed for Heresy’s “Hand Over Hannover.” Sorry, dudes. Busted.) Anyway, that shit’s not exciting. Here’s what is, and I’m thinking about taking my shirt off for emphasis: These Songs. That’s right, capital letters. The songs on Heresy and the Hotel Choir are among the best any of these fellas have written in any of their bands, and they’re so unabashedly crackling with energy that if you’re not jiggling in your seat a little bit right now, you might very well have some kind of disease that makes you sit still. “Hours That You Keep”—frantic. “Be Unhappy”—mature, but not in that gross way. “For Science Fiction”—expansive in a way they’ve never been. “Pearl”—huge. Seriously, fire up your popguns and join the choir. Robe not necessary, but Maritime won’t turn you away if you wanna wear one. They’re just that swell.
--Josh Modell, professional journalist, 2 July 07