Maxïmo Park are just one group among a wave of angular indie bands from 12 odd years ago (of which I include Razorlight, Pigeon Detectives and The View) that I’m surprised are still going. They have always been a step above, though. The thick, ungainly regional accent of vocalist Paul Smith are a bit take or leave and not far removed from the Yorkshire-pudding-and-gravy-voiced John Shuttleworth fronting his own indie band, but their debut A Certain Trigger, which landed in 2005, packed a lot of shining heart. Bursting with booksmarts as well as spiky new-wave riffage, it became one of the growers of the year. Their 2007 follow-up Our Earthly Pleasures had a couple more dynamite numbers but they’ve not done an awful lot since then to recapture that initial explosivity onto the scene. Their 6th album ‘Risk To Exist’ goes some way to rectifying that and is as tight and immediate as anything off their first 2 records.
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Lyrically throughout, Paul Smith very much has his finger on the pulse, whether it be on love, politics or otherwise. Steely, hardened, determined, defiant, he comes out with fists raised. He pillories for answers on the sure-footed and steady, chantworthy opener ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?’. On 2nd track and lead single ‘Get High (No I Don’t)’ Smith openly declines any well-meaning offers to unwind, instead setting his sights on a much larger, unclarified goal. Ironic really, because with rousing, ribald chords, raucous chorus and boomy, bustling basslines this is easily their most partytastic tune in ages. On 3rd track What Equals Love? they indulge further into outright disco as glitterball guitar chords compete with Oh What A Night! drum beats and a loudly ringing unison piano riff. They adopt a more martial flavour on the title track with rapid-fire snare rolls underpinning the verses and a battlefield of excitement erupting elsewhere.
6th track and centrepiece ‘Work And Then Wait’ initially clangs with overbearing similarities to Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies but it slowly weaves a spell of sighing magic with some pointed verses about country-wide socio-economic injustices. There’s strong stuff filled out on the rest of the album, much of it in the same vein as the earlier half. Sharp lyrical set-ups and put-downs always stick out even if specific songs don’t. Penultimate track ‘Respond To The Feeling’ is more electronic in nature with acid bass, blips and bloops lurking underneath and all around. Closer ‘Alchemy’ begins with a laboured ‘terms and conditions’ metaphor that makes you want to scroll past and tick the acknowledgement box without reading but it does eventually ascend towards a divine, heaven-bound chorus. From smartypants lyrical scraps to stirring, string-laden and keyboard-soaked salvation, it’s true songwriting alchemy in action. They’ve churned out a few middling albums more than necessary along the way but Maxïmo Park have not risked their reputation any harm with ‘Risk To Exist’, a fine reaffirmation of their bestest musical features and more.
‘Risk To Exist’ is out now via Daylighting Records.