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 

Maximo Park – Too Much Information Review

Maximo Park have been around for about a decade now and aside from wanting to make you feel old, I want to point to the gradual if not noticed progression their music has taken. Paul Smith has always been known for his unusual and insightful lyrics but the roaring, rapid and instantaneous approach of their early Indie sound has slowly been sanded down over the years or utilised in a very different way as they reach their fifth album. Though I’m you may think I’d be a little biased attending the same college as Paul Smith and ending up in Newcastle University like the band; as always I’m discrediting all of it and being supercritical as always! You do get a sense of a little bit of unfairness creeping in with the way they are treated. They haven’t produced the most ground breaking of music, but you feel that some are just inventing any excuse to limit their praise of the band. Critique of the band because of his regional tone or because he ‘overthinks and romanticises his unusual lyrics’ cannot be a valid critique when those such as Alex Turner are praised and given full marks for such a thing. Perhaps it is because Mr Turner has diluted his voice for the Latte drinkers in South West London or the Upper East Side as heaven forbid someone from the North East of England to be thoughtful and considerate about their lyrics. O.K that may have been a little biased but I think I’ve made my point. You did get the feel that there was a much darker current running across their 2012 album The National Health and hints of more synth driven work and this has probably come to fruition with Too Much Information.

‘Brain Cells’ is a song that opens with a simple, low lying bass line with Paul’s echoed and more wistful vocals over the top. The whirring and recurring synth sounds add to the more haunting and darker tones of the song while the rapid bursts of percussion give the song a prominent beat and rhythm. The song is bold and different and resembles more of a dance or synth track. I think the song flows well and there is a real atmospheric if not synthetic quality to the song in conjunction with Paul Smith’s earthy vocal. The song also slowly rises and falls with it’s tones to good effect but rarely flat-lines so keeping you on that edge throughout the song and not building to a predictable, noisy and crashing conclusion. Perhaps the key to this song is it’s restraint. ‘Leave This Island’ is undoubtedly one of the standout tracks from the album. It opens with steady percussion which would seem so vulnerable to smash by a sudden shift in tempo, but this is not the case. The synths softly layer themselves upon it with strikes from a piano in slow, pulsating and rhythmic fashion. Paul’s vocals are also laid on gently with a deeper and more sincere vocal that deliver the considered and thoughtful lyrics without distraction. The song has such a rhythmic and melodic feel about it but it has been forced into an emotive and slightly tragic feeling song in a marvellous contradiction. Again the song shifts tone and ups tempo subtly with more rapid synths and sudden bursts of percussion that are still held in place with the songs tone by Paul’s softer vocal.

‘Is It True’ has a late 70’s and early 80’s feel about it’s electronica with hints of 80’s Indie about it. It is an odd combination that works with the sharper synths sounds splattering against the drawn out and lingering strikes of the car. The vocals have the calm depth to pull the song along and evoke a deeper feel to the song. It is almost inoffensively retro in that sense and has been manipulated and balanced off pretty well. ‘Her Name Was Audre’ follows a more familiar Maximo Park style of the last decade and is a short, sharp blast to perhaps allow long time fans some nostalgia but that’s about all it does really. ‘Midnight On The Hill’ is another cascading and anthemic guitar track with a slightly distant vocal and an interesting turn in the song with more high pitched and a cascading ending but a song that feels very 2006. This catchy indie tune is recreated with ‘Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’ with pop like melody and vocal. On the whole, this album is their most thoughtful and calmest album where everything is laid out rather gently and in a more engaging way. Though some of the album features some great electronic spheres and atmospheres that are produced magnificently and although Paul Smith delivers again with the vocals, there is a slight niggling thought that more could have been done with the rest of the album which are just good tracks in spite of the slight variation amongst it. It is still a very solid album nonetheless.

Maximo Park – Too Much Information – 7.5/10

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Album Taster – Maximo Park – Brain Cells (Too Much Information)

Photo: Photo: Press

Maximo Park are a band that had sprung from into view around a decade ago; like so many bands under the new indie tag. They haven’t quite achieved the commercial status of some but they have still achieved moderate success both here and on the continent with the peak of this being their number two album in the U.K with Our Earthly Pleasures in 2007. Yesterday, they announced that they would be releasing their fifth studio album entitled Too Much Information in February and they’ve unveiled a track called Brain Cells to give people a taste of what the album may sound like. If the track is anything to go by, then it is a much bigger shift in style and structure than they’ve done before. The song opens a simple four part bass line with Paul echoed and more wistful vocals over the top. The whirring and recurring synth sounds add to the more haunting a dark tones of the song while the rapid bursts of percussion give the song a prominent beat and rhythm. The song is bold and different and resembles a dance or synth track. I think the song flows well and the is a real atmospheric if not synthetic quality to the song in conjunction with Paul Smith’s earthy vocal. It is a good combination and an intriguing one at that. Whether they are going to maintain this through the album or not is something of which we will only find out in the next few weeks. Having said that though; it does look like it could be pretty exciting and interesting and so far it is proof that it pays to try and be bold and imaginative.

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