Maximo Park – Risk To Exist Review 

Risk To Exist is the sixth studio album by North East four piece Maximo Park and whilst they’ve always featured politically charged lyrics alongside those that dissect the features of relationships; they’ve pushed this more than ever before on this occasion. They spoke of making an album that was a reflection of the “dire state of the world in 2016” and it is that, which on the surface is their ambition for this album. On their last two albums in particular, musical exploration and experimentation was the driving force of their music and it was only not going further with it that held those albums from being something special. There are always certain familiarities that included Paul Smith’s Teesside tones and his ability to produce compelling narratives that allow them to take whicher direction. Has playing to their strengths worked this time around?

In ‘Risk to Exist’ the band is uses more traditional keyboards than in their previous work. Before their sound was quite sparse, with more of a focus on guitars, but the angular quality of their riffs has been filled out really nicely with more of a focus on those keyboards. At the start of the song the drums are the main instrument and in the chorus there are three or four different keyboard sounds. This marks a greater maturity in their song writing. The song is quite anthemic and will probably do well on the festival circuit this summer. The lyrics address a very big problem in today’s society: the stigma on refugees. They sing: “Put your arms around me, I’ve come too far and the ocean is deep…where’s your empathy?” and by mentioning “the expert colonisers” they address the UK, “Risk to Exist” might be a subtle reminder of Brexit. They also call out for action on the refugee problem and how they are treated and seen as well as the lack of willingness for anyone to admit they are responsible with the lyrics: ” The Talkshows talk, but nothing gets done, who wants to be responsible for Europes biggest sum? Show us some responsibility!” ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’, is a song ‘about resistance in the face of repetition and coercion’ – according to front-man Paul Smith. And the singles video, directed by James & James, reflects the bands anti-elitist theme. Showing the main protagonist reaching a frantic choreographed breaking point amongst Smith’s unique lyrics, perfectly intertwined with a relentless pop-melody, which heavily displays the bands soulful, groove-based influences. ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’ is a brilliant slice of Maximo Park at their anti-establishment best, if with the tiniest bit of midlife crisis style, complaining about the government, thrown in for good measure but after all isn’t that exactly what we love about Maximo. ‘What Equals Love?’ runs counter to the tracks released so far which have been rather pointed in tone lyrically (which is more than welcome). This track though, seems to echo Paul Smith’s ability to portray difficulties in human relations with such musicality and sing-a-long quality. It is a nice shift in tone and variety for the album and though using the same tools, this track has many Pop qualities with infectious rhythms, melodies and harmonies. They are a band that have been sending out solid pieces of music for a long time, but this is stronger track that will serve their album and their gigs well. 

‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?’ is a slick and smoothly delivered track with steady, bouncing organs, drawn out and sparse guitars in the chorus with a clicking percussion. This gives Paul Smith the liscense to either belt out in the chorus or cram lyrics together and he does both. Lyrically he tackles long standing noitions of Conservative ideology, selfishness and Post Truth politics. An eloquent musical setting to talk about these subjects. ‘The Hero’ has a canny, electric jolting rhythm to it and is a sign that the group’s musicality has generally improved over the last twelve years. A track that builds in energy. ‘Respond To The Feel’ and ‘Alchemy’ are tracks that have shades of their recent work with a more angular production. ‘Make What You Can’ on the other hand is more reminiscent of their earlier work with sharp, jumping rhythms that collapse in the bridge for a ringing hook in the chorus. The remaining tracks don’t really stick and whilst well delivered like all their tracks, they are uneventful affairs that act as ballast to fill out the album. For the most part, this is another solid album with flashes of brilliance. The production methods of the last two albums have left their guitar based sound sharper and more purposeful and the emotive lyrics fit into several different settings. A album worth your attention even if it won’t be the first to be recalled at the end of the year.

Maximo Park – Risk To Exist = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle, Hayley Miller and Lea Fabbrini 

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