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 

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

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

Really Good Remixes – Maximo Park – Leave This Island (Mogwai Remix)

Maximo Park and their sorrowful single ‘Leave This Island’ from their 2014 album Too Much Information is often viewed as an appeal to Scotland during it’s growing desire for Independence from the Northumbrian band, to consider the region in the debate. It seems only apt that this song was remixed by Glaswegian band Mogwai who do a brilliant job of giving the song even darker and more sorrowful depths musically, but interestingly remove the lyrics and by extension the message of the song. Nevertheless the sonic charge they give the song works wonders in achieving their aims whilst not changing the musical emphasis of the it.

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

Sunday Suggestion – Maximo Park – The National Health

Rewind two years and Maximo Park were a well established band in the UK and Europe and of course, hugely respected in their native North East. They formed as students at Newcastle University and lead singer, Paul Smith is a man of Teesside too. Two of these things are applicable to me, but beyond any skewed loyalty I might have, they have deserved every piece of credit they have received. Whether it was their fully charged 21st century indie anthems, their reflective ballads or their political protests and commentaries. It’s the later that currently appeals to me. Their fourth studio album of 2012 was entitled The National Health after all and the title track spoke volumes of the frustrations of the day. Musically, it’s a song of rapidity and urgency with the flashing leading rhythms, staccato piano melodies and the highly charged whirr of the lead guitar atop of it all. Smith’s delivery is as urgent and evokes the frustration of the lyrics he delivers about the struggles of riding the local trains, lost identities and ignorant councils. The title of the track is a sharp play on words itself. Whether it’s the dismantling of the National Health Service or the general poor state of the National in general., it relates to both.

Single Review – Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Exiting Hyde Park Towers

Two key leading lights of North East music have come together to create an album titled Frozen by Sight which will be out on November 17th. These two leading lights in collaboration are Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith (A Tynesider via Teesside) and Peter Brewis of Field Music (A man of Wearside) and their album is to be centred around Smith’s travel writing and Brewis’ chamber orchestra arrangements with each track relating to a place or location and intends to take you from the shores of North East England to Los Angeles. Their latest track from the album is entirely evocative of the album’s intended nature. ‘Exiting Hyde Park Towers’ has that gradual rise and fall of the louder piano chords and tumbling percussion with Smith’s vocals slotting between each musical signpost for a gentle and sweeping feel that is enhanced by the fine strings linking the parts together. A song with subtle instrumental flexibility and vocal intricacy.