Promise, The Maybes?’s debut album, does not begin well. Opening track ‘Turn Me Over’ definitely does not make a good first impression; it’s dull, repetitive and lacks energy in a big way. Similarly the second track and former single ‘Boys’ is terribly unexciting. There’s an appealing quality in lead singer Nick Ellis’s voice, that raspy yet yearning quality typical of so many of his fellow Liverpudlian singers , but when the lyrics are as un-engaging as “boys will be boys and we’re lost in the city tonight” it seems rather redundant and a waste of energy.
Fortunately, the album does improve as it goes on, and a nod should be given to the vocal harmonies. Guitarists Lee Smith and Timo Tierney both sing backing vocals and this usually works excellently, especially in the chorus of ‘The Come Around’. ‘Ronnie Loves Julie’, on the other hand, is a nauseating track, and the vocal harmonies only make it worse.
Some of the best tracks, ‘Full Moon’, ‘Healing Hands’ and ‘Talk About You’, come towards the end of the album. ‘Talk About You’ is another former single, and explains why the band are often described as ‘classic pop’ or ‘pop-rock’. It’s a great dance-along track, with simple yet perfect break-up-song lyrics, although I would still say that the other two are much more interesting – it’s these slightly haunting and melancholy tracks that hint at the potential of The Maybes? There are more variations in the melodies and some experimentation with different styles: ‘Full Moon’ flirts with dub, and it’s a very welcome break from the repetitiveness of the majority of the other tracks. The lyrics of these songs are mixed, sometimes very good, sometimes dire (“Your face, it has no place, it leaves no trace” is truly awful) but despite the occasional bad lyric or two these are still the most meaningful and sincere sounding songs on the album.
The album-closer is title track ‘Promise’, a twelve and a half minute long instrumental. Given how repetitive the rest of the album is you’d think it would be torture to be forced to listen to the entire thing, but it turns out to be the highlight of the album, easily the most musically interesting track. It’s also danceable, although I’m not sure if anyone would manage to last out the whole thing on the dance floor, and I can’t imagine it becoming an indie disco favourite!