COOKING VINYL 21st April, 2017
It gets tricky, a few albums into a career. Okay, six albums and twelve years for Maximo Park. You get a lifetime to create the ideas for your first album and everything afterwards is more of a rush. I remember the thrill and blast of the first Maximo Park records and the fun of the early gigs, with Paul Smith doing scissor kicks. And I keep a soft spot for them for that. Paul’s voice leads me to expecting quality and a speedy pulse, like Get High (No I Don’t), leads to great expectations. That’s despite the hugely disappointing and wet solo work of Mr Smith.
The good news is the album is polished and songs crafted. The bad news is there’s a mix of filler and, er, okay stuff. Lyrics retain their sharp commentary – this isn’t a band that ignores the arrant nonsense and cruelty of the British islands these days – but there’s a wee bit too much run of the mill here. Respond To The Feeling has a message and the old vocal tics but the pure-eighties vibe leaves it on the starting blocks. What Equals Love is fine but it brings to mind Simple Minds and other big pop bands of the eighties. Paul said to expect some groovier moments and it does groove nicely, especially with the organ fill of the title track (and lead single); it has moved on from indie and rock but I find the mainstream poppier arrangements a bit cheesy and songs like I’ll Be Around caught between clever meta-lyrics and corny sentiment. It’s a change from the previous five albums, not all of which I’ve heard, and I’ll not knock the band for change; they just seem to have lost some mojo somewhere.
Work Then Wait hits the nail in sentiment about wage slavery but lacks in tune and life. The Hero pounds along fine, with that eighties white soul vibe. Whereas The Reason I’m Here is more like it: “The people who never doubt, are the ones I’m worried about. The people who never doubt, are the ones who carry the clout”. Like the other higher-shelf tracks on the set, it fuses the older indie rock sound with their newer “groovier” approach. Contrast with Make What You Can – a strong lyric message disempowered with a fussy arrangement with pop frills. Alchemy is a throwaway closer – the sort of thing that makes an amusing B-side. Playing on privacy messages from online shops, it tries to tie them to a wider feeling without really succeeding.
An album worth hearing and one that Maximo fans will like, it isn’t going to win new converts but justifies its existence. Would have made a very fine mini-album.