I will start this with a notice - Maxïmo Park is one of those Jekyll and Hyde bands for me. When they are on fire, they are untouchable. Anyone who has seen their live set in various shows up and down the UK and around the world will testify to this and they have a knack of writing a catchy tune. On the negative side when Maxïmo Park play it by the numbers that accent type singing grinds my gears like a Peter Griffin silly side note on Family Guy; this is coming from someone from the North East of England. Also, they seemed to have peaked a little early for my tastes with 'Our Earthly Pleasure' being the last album I took any real interest in. That said it is always an event when a band from the North East have a good reputation and release an album. I have been going over this album since it was released at the beginning of February and I think I am finally ready to release my opinions....
Starting with the interesting "Give, Get Take" it is the song which is most reminisce of past Maxïmo Park hits, but it is restrained and almost held back compared the anarchic stylistic bombardment of previous albums. But this is not a bad thing; it is as if the band have become comfortable with what they do and know when they need to (whilst stealing one of their song titles) apply some pressure to the song. It is a brilliant song which builds on itself into a great piece of indie rock. "Brain Cells" is next which has a change of direction for the band, sounding like one of the darker moments of Bloc Party mixed in with Joy Division it is a disturbing moment which is also incredible well balanced. After this is the first single taken from the album "Leave This Island" which is a glorious tale of a lost day in Scotland, it is quite possibly one of the strangest choices of singles but it makes so much sense on this album. It is showcasing the new Maxïmo Park who is here to take your heart as well as your dancing feet. It is not a fast dance, but it is a dance never the less.
"Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry" is the fourth track of the album, another heartbreaking tale about a love that has broken down and finished. The band has not changed too much, but it is an improvement on this album so far cannot be understated. The quite moments and release of their more subtle side is making this a better album that I was expecting. "My Bloody Mind" is up next and is a little more rocky that the rest of the album, it is needed in some respects otherwise it would be all a little too melodic; but it is not much of an improvement to the tone for me at least. It is not bad, just not as good as the first four tracks. "Is It True?" is after this with an 80's indie feel and a mood swing which could shatter the happiest mood. Never has misery sounded as distort and lost. Then we come to "Drinking Martinis" which swaggers onto the album with a tale of past drinking stories and night long gone, wishing that those days were back and the fun was still happening around them. It is a moment which is cementing their reputation on this album for dark tales of woe and regret.
"I Recognise The Light" is the closest that the album gets to their old ways, but it is a stripped back version of their early work. It is a good reminder of that they are not just the new kings of Northern misery and doom (who had thought that would have been written about them). "Midnight On The Hill" is a darker Big Country which is a very good thing. It will be one of the moments of their gigs that will go down a storm I am sure. It feels like an anthem waiting to be discovered. "Her Name Was Audre" which is a punky little display of simplicity that is a fantastic stop gap before the last song which is "Where We're Going". The final track is about not knowing where you are heading and being fine with letting the other person knowing the direction that they are heading towards, it is quite yet fitting ending to this album.
I am really surprised by this record on many levels. It is so dark and brooding that it is strange to this came from the same band who released "Our Velocity", it just does not seem like the same guys and I think that this will one day be held one of their best releases, if not their best work. The change in the band is brilliant and having no producers apart from themselves working on the album. I was going in with low expectations and I am glad to have been proven wrong. A moment of genius from the new dark indie pop overlord from up north!
9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....
Top track - Drinking Martinis
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Maximo Park website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Alternatively, for Deezer user's here is a link for you
Here is the video to "Leave This Island"