King Tut’s, Glasgow
The dry ice and white noise that provide the back drop to Maps arriving on stage serve only to accentuate the unease with which James Chapman’s bedroom project has become a living and breathing live act on the back of this year’s Mercury nomination.
For much of the show, the heads of the five band members remain focused on their instruments, or in the case of vocalist, Chapman, on the floor. Between songs he mumbles and swigs from a bottle of beer, occasionally inquiring as to the whereabouts of the post-show party. Nevertheless, the sound they create is impressive, if decidedly monochromatic.
‘So High, So Low’ is the most dramatic example of the highs and lows of the ‘We Can Create’ album with keyboard washes and crashing drums submerging the vocals, if not Chapman’s sense of strong melody which permeates even their darker, noisier moments.
Though it is well put together and executed, Maps suffer mainly as a consequence of their own inexperience, and while it can, in some instances, be an advantage, their adoption of the music scene of 1988 as their year zero, is perhaps the root of their own limitations.
Although there are occasional nods towards dance music, the key influences are the spacey, feedback-laden rock of My Bloody Valentine or Spiritualized, though in their more pop moments, it is the nineties’ output of The Stone Roses, James and the Lightning Seeds that springs to mind.
With the exception of the excellent ‘It Fill Find You’ and the closing, ‘When You Leave’ there are few unexpected twists or developments, and the combination of a repetitive formula and unimposing visual presence means that, after a while, their drones start to drag. (John Williamson)