Release Date: Feb 3, 2014
Record label: Daylighting
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
To launch their fifth album, Maximo Park have created their own beer, Maximo No 5. Surely, though, red wine would have been the more apt tipple – few groups better conjure up images of solitary garrets and slim volumes. After the politicised outburst of 2012's The National Health, this record is closer to business as usual: leader Paul Smith's lyrics portray him as the bookish romantic stymied by constantly overthinking – but, this time, the sound has been subtly enhanced by electronics and actual beats.
"I wanted to try something different this time," Paul Smith sings at one point on Too Much Information, and in fact, Maxïmo Park try a few new things on their fifth album. This set of songs began as an experimental EP with Field Music's David and Peter Brewis, and the band sound as playful and relaxed as they were forceful and serious on their previous album The National Health. It's clear that they wanted to try as many approaches as possible: "My Bloody Mind" begins as a grinding rocker, then settles into something more confessional and endearing as Paul Smith wonders "Why do I long for a life/That I already have?" over a flowing piano melody; "Brain Cells," meanwhile, delivers on the electronic flirtations Maxïmo Park have shown since A Certain Trigger with spare, paranoid synth pop.
For bands from the mid-’00s, it’s like the first 20 minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ out there. If you’re not Arctic Monkeys, Kings Of Leon, The Killers or Kasabian – and already safely headlining festivals – then every album release must feel like charging up the Normandy beaches into a barrage of anti-guitar gunfire from people who want the alternative world to be populated solely by blank-faced beard-and-model glitchpop duos and Hurts-alike Top Shop mannequins that have come to life and started honking out ‘future soul’. The Enemy, The Twang and Kaiser Chiefs have all been victims.Of course, history records that a few plucky bands got through, and one of those was Maximo Park.
When the story of the early-2000s rise of indie rock is told, Maximo Park will likely be not much more than a footnote. By the time of their joyful 2004 debut, A Certain Trigger, the nouveau new-wave sound from which they were born was cresting toward passé, as a surplus of likeminded bands, both good (the Rakes, Bloc Party) and not so good (Razorlight, We Are Scientists), turned innovation into formula. That's a shame, since the band has been turning out buzzing, laser-sighted singles like “My Velocity” and “The Kids Are Sick Again” with much greater regularity than bands far more celebrated.
Where the credit crunch was clearly sparked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, I’m not sure than any single, totemic event sparked the commercial cataclysm that befell UK indie rock around the same time – perhaps it was the Pigeon Detectives having two top 5 albums on the trot, conceivably it in fact was the collapse of Lehman Brothers again, probably it was something more prosaic to do with download habits and inevitable cycles of taste. In any case, a lot of bands that were really very popular in 2007 were really very unpopular a short time thereafter, and though there are those whose trip down the toilet brings a smile to the lips (it’s hard to resist a Pigeon Detectives shoutback here, but more realistically I mean The Enemy), the natural reaction to such reversals of fortune is to feel a little sorry for the band in question. Maximo Park are on their fifth album, now, and honestly, if their confidence has decreased with their chart positions have decreased, then there’s no trace of it here.
Maximo Park were originally noted for being another winning entry in the mid-00’s-British-guitar-bands-best-described-as-”angular” genre, snapping to-and-fro with wiry songs filled with assertive, wry wordplay. A few albums later, they’ve flipped the script: Too Much Information, their newest, eases up on the gas while deepening their commitment to contemplative songwriting. As a literary exercise, it’s convincing; as a listening one, it’s mixed.
“You know where we’re going”, sings Paul Smith in his Northern drool during the rather mundane album closer Where We’re Going, but in all honesty it’s hard to tell these days. When the band emerged from the North of England in 2005 with debut A Certain Trigger, the energy and excitement they managed to emit from the recordings endeared them to many, with standout moments including single Apply Some Pressure and the hugely enjoyable stop start romp Going Missing. Follow up Our Earthly Pleasures continued the momentum, reaching number two in the UK album chart but the focus was already starting to shift from the post-punk vigour of the debut, with the more concentrated Books From Boxes taking most of the plaudits, pushing more anticipated efforts such as Our Velocity into second place in the process.
Every single time you start to really like ‘Too Much Information’, every moment like the ‘True Faith’-indebted ‘Leave This Island’, or the heartstring tugging ‘Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’ or even the hint of more angular times of ‘Drinking Martinis’, something soon comes along that annoys. It’s generally lyrical. “We went through the movies / And you explained the subtext”, Paul Smith informs us during ‘Where We’re Going’ and you’re forced to wonder exactly how annoying it would be if DVD night was mostly about your beloved explaining the deeper meaning behind each film.
“It’s not a peak, it’s a plateau,” sings Paul Smith on lead single Leave This Island. He is, of course, actually singing about relationships or love or emotions or something, but he could equally well be reflecting on his band’s recent career. Despite 2007’s Our Earthly Pleasures hitting the number two spot, Maxïmo Park have never quite made the move from early to late evening festival slot, and while subsequent albums have kept things ticking along nicely for the fans, they’ve done little to attract new recruits.
With 2012's The National Health, Maxïmo Park reclaimed the mystique of what made their early work so brilliant—the angular guitars, the witty lyrics, the propulsive motorik drive. Although the opening track to the band's fifth album, "Give, Get, Take" pulses with energy and tension, ending with the question, "Where do we go from here?" Too Much Information is, at best, a hard left turn from The National Health, and, at worst, a letdown. .
Maximo Park started out as a fairly respected member of the post-punk revival in the early 2000s. It’s sad to say that their newest album would have been more enjoyable if the British rockers claimed it was a parody album. It sounds harsh, but Too Much Information is easily one of the most unashamedly campy and cheesy albums released in recent memory.
For those not paying attention, well, there’s actually been little to pay attention to in regards to Maxïmo Park for the last few years. Their 2005 debut album, A Certain Trigger, was nominated for the Mercury Prize and they were at that time a very exciting guitar band. Most of their original tracks, and a few from Our Earthly Pleasures,remain really good listening while live the band have never disappointed.
In the annals of most seasoned bands’ catalogs, there is usually an album or two that underscores the degree to which its follow-up became known as “comeback.” U2 had Pop, the Chili Peppers had One Hot Minute, and so on. While those efforts are perfectly serviceable and contain one or two bookends for a greatest hits album, their fundamental utility is arguably in presaging the greatness of All That You Can’t Leave Behind and Californication, respectively. If history is any guide, Maximo Park will release another album in 2016 – the greatness of which will be underscored by the mere “serviceability” of its most recent effort, Too Much Information.
Marissa Nadler, July Marissa Nadler’s limnetic new album, July, is both eerie and soothing, a lullaby written to induce nightmares. Burrow deeper and the odd hallucinatory qualities reveal themselves; images blend, fade and reform with no real discernible pattern. This album is composed of memories, the kind that your mind tries to reshape over time to shield you from what really happened.