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 

Single Review – Maximo Park – What Equals Love?

With their upcoming sixth studio album Risk To Exist on its way for an April 21st release, the Newcastle based group have released their third outright single with ‘What Equals Love?’. With the tracks released so far being rather pointed in tone lyrically (which is more than welcome) this track 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, but this is stronger track that will serve their album and their gigs well. 

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – Maximo Park – Get High (No I don’t)

Maximo Park’s new single ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’, taken from forthcoming album ‘Risk To Exist’ due for release on April 21, 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.

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Maximo Park – Risk To Exist 


The English alternative rock band Maxïmo Park, founded in 2000 in Newcastle upon Tyne, released on the 20th of January the first single to their sixth studio album, both with the same name – ‘Risk to Exist’

The bands members are vocalist Paul Smith, guitarist Duncan Lloyd , Lukas Wooller at the keyboard and drummer Tom English.

They’re in the tradition of British indie pop, with dashes of 80’s American indie thrown in for good measure.

 

In their new single ‘Risk to Exist’the band is using more 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 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!”

 

The full album is slated to be released in April 2017 and the band planned a UK tour in May which is already nearly sold out!

Lea Fabbrini 

Lanterns on the Lake – Beings Review

The Newcastle based Lanterns on the Lake have been providing us with their symphonic rock sound for around five years since their debut album and now they’re here with their third, titled Beings. The follow up to 2013’s Until the Colours Run looks to generate a solid and more tangible identification with the bands graceful and delicate sound which are often delivered with lyrical references to the environment of Northumbria around the band’s leader Hazel Wilde.

The lead single ‘Faultlines’ opens with Hazel’s vocals hanging off the sweeping piano chords which hints at a rapidity that is soon signified by the introduction of the pace setting bass lines and percussion and it takes on a structure and tone similar to that of a Killers track circa 2009. The track repeats its pattern of pulling the pace setting instrumentation in and out to add a sense of depth in the track which is widened as the music gradually becomes more washed out with the vocals sweeping to their heights. ‘Send Me Home’ is a little more typical of the group with the steady piano chords and Hazel’s vocals meandering through them elegantly as she sings about wishing to get away from the daily grind and go home. The track has a natural atmosphere accentuated by a complimentary production which makes the track soar. Familiar but something that is difficult to become sick of. The title track is similar in this tone and feel with the gradually rising sound advanced through at time rapid percussion in what is a sombre musical environment.

‘The Crawl’ opens with the lone guitar riff with its slight echo and from here the instrumentation is gradually increased with the piano first, the slow, stomping percussion and the clearer and more powerful vocals. The start to expand and grow as do the guitar parts and from here the song builds in an ever increasing light. ‘Stepping Down’ is one of the more experimental tracks on the album with its murky and shuffling electronica and samples with a eerie chime hanging over them along with Hazel’s lingering vocal. It is one of the highlights of the album in it’s understated ambition. This is not an album that is going to make you get up and dance, let’s be clear. This album is one contemplation and immersion and if its one thing this band does well is immerse you with their music and lyrical content. It’s business as usual with this album with a few subtle hints at new avenues of exploration.

Lanterns on the Lake – Beings = 8/10

Paul Smith & The Imitations – Contradictions Review

Teesside’s Paul Smith has used the time taken out of his role as lead singer of Maximo Park to form a little group of his own and release a second album away from that more well known role. Contradictions has been released on Billingham Records, the town he’s from no less and the general content and feel of the album is very much a reflection of the North East or Northumbria and his obvious affinity with it. Smith’s solo venture back in 2010 was much more introspective than anything Maximo Park had done at that time and this greater personal content is something we can expect here too, but is this sacrificing some key aspects to the sound?

‘Break Me Down’ is a pop inspired, rhythmic and catchy affair with a slight leaning towards the older material of Maximo Park, but it certainly remains it’s own thing with a more warped and loose guitar part and a generally more spaced out and breezy sound. This sound is accentuated by the Pop backing vocals and anchored by Smith’s earthy accented vocal. ‘All The Things You’d Like To Be’ features the echoed and meandering riff to open the track, something more at home on a Shoegaze track. This addition is more stripped back however without sacrificing the sonic quality and from here the track takes on a nice rhythmic jolt and maintains an urgency throughout. The lyrical content as always with Smith is very visual and descriptive as he describes the derelict office blocks of his home town for example.

‘Reintroducing The Red Kite’ is a track driven by a more prominent bass line and a deeper riff from which the vocals can break away in a light and airy fashion. The snappy percussion in the background only makes the verses more appealing in it’s catchiness, but the chorus does seem a little like a forced attempt to fit the song’s title into the track. The track as a musical affair works the juxtaposition between verse and chorus well however. ‘Coney Island (4th of July)’ is a track replicative of an 80’s pop track with breezy overtones as the warping bass line runs alongside the light whirring backing vocals. A steady Track. More folk-inspired tones are found on tracks like ‘The Gold Glint’ with the closely recorded acoustics feeding in to a slow paced, jangling ensemble that is ‘Fill in the Blanks’ as the track builds up it’s sonic quality with the addition of a wiry lead guitar behind the steady instrumentation. Other tracks such as ‘The Deep End’ continue that atmospheric quality to the album tracks with the close recording of vocals set against a more purposeful, rhythmic sound and this makes the lyrics stand out too. The lyrics are certainly one of the album’s strong points and even though the album isn’t bursting full of invention, it gathers together a good mix of sounds that make the album a dynamic one within the context of Paul Smith’s introspective messages.

Paul Smith & The Imitations – Contradictions = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – The Police – Every Breath You Take

Despite the popular opinion and the critical acclaim The Police are always cast off in the hipster/Indie2.0 media and commentary as a band of the uncool 80’s that sat between Joy Division and The Smiths and without diminishing the quality of those groups, The Police are just as worthy of a mention. If you look at the figures you have to say something about them and ‘Every Breath You Take’ is the song that sits at the peak of their success. A song recorded as the band were falling apart and a ballad that is apart from the Reggae tinged New Wave/Post Punk that their earlier material showcased. The song has one of the most recognisable hooks of all time as Andy Summers begins to pluck the that perfectly poised riff that’s indelible throughout the track. The minimalistic song is backed up by buoyant strikes of the piano, a basic beat and a basic bass line as Sting sets out his vocal range. In an era of such massive production this bare bones track was one of the biggest of the decade and the richest track too, getting even richer when Sting sold that iconic riff to the then Puff Daddy for his track ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ in 1997. The lyrics of the track are famously widely misunderstood too with Sting’s stalker-like tone understood by millions as an expression of love. Might the song have been as famous had people understood it from the beginning? Who knows? But this is a song worthy of the title of classic.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Paul Smith and The Limitations – Break Me Down

Maximo Park’s Paul Smith is to release his second solo album(ish) on August 21st with Contradictions. He and his group The Imitations have released another track in ‘Break Me Down’ from the album and is a pop inspired, rhythmic and catchy affair with a slight leaning towards the older material of Maximo Park, but it certainly remains it’s own thing with a more warped and loose guitar part and a generally more spaced out and breezy sound. This sound is accentuated by the Pop backing vocals and anchored by Smith’s earthy accented vocal. A nice little track from the Teessider.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Maximo Park – The National Health

From a song by one of the North East’s finest bands in Maximo Park, that seems very apt given the unbearable next five years which ‘our’ country decided to vote for. It’s title and lyrics were initially in protest to the state of the country as a whole in 2012, but it has since took on the double meaning of a song bemoaning the dismantling of the nation’s health service. Without any hesitation, I say that this song acts as the mouth-piece for what the vast majority of our region believes and with another five years of struggles ahead of us, we’ll do what we always do. We remain defiant and dignified in the face of targeted neglect and patronisation. A mentality that is perfectly encapsulated in this track from the band’s self titled fourth studio album.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Gig Review – Alvvays and Moon King at Think Tank, Newcastle

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Alvvays took charge of the Think Tank in Newcastle last night for what was all in all a chilled out and swaying affair as the Nova Scotia via Toronto band dished out some melodic and at times swooning surf rock and pop. After setting up their own instruments and declaring that “we’ve already blew up one amp today” they hammered out an hour long set of tracks off their self titled 2014 debut LP. Naturally tracks like ‘Archie, Marry Me’ got the crowd swaying in contentment (myself included) and singing along with Molly’s wistful and sweeping vocals. These vocals really came into their own for the gracious and contemplative tracks like ‘Ones Who Love You’. After blasting out ‘Adult Diversion’ for an apt and catchy conclusion, they returned for an encore that included a new track and a warning about the hordes of clubbers massing below. Between tracks they were a picture of Canadian politeness talking of being happy to be playing in “their ancestral homeland” and bemoaning how “more people have heard of Nova Scotia in the U.K than in the U.S”. They were preceded by fellow Canadian four piece Moon King. They delivered a rough and distorted sound entwined with the vocal harmonies to counter act them. They did their set without any bass at all and with the lead guitarist occasionally moving down to the lower chords. All in all it was an intimate and relaxed gig with all the right amounts of sweet rhythms and melody as you’d expect. Oh and a belated happy birthday to Keyboardist Kerri, who’s birthday it was yesterday!