30 April 2017

Maxïmo Park - Risk to Exist

When I was offered the chance to review the new Maxïmo Park album a few days before its release, I was sort of taken a back.  Here is a band that are based in my local area (North East of England) who have made some great albums, whilst they have also had some releases that did not quite work for me.  They are a sort of institution up here and their last album ‘Too Much Information’ (my review cleverly linked here) was in my top 20 albums of 2014, which has grown in stature for me since its release.  It was a moment where they changed from being an act who had done good for themselves into being one of the leading lights in the Indie music scene in my eyes.  It has taken me a little while to complete this review as I wanted to absorb the album, give it time to sink in rather than a gut/from the hip reaction.  Risk to Exist’ was recorded in the latter half of 2016 with Tom Schick producing the album, it is also an album I have been looking forward to reviewing, but how does it sound?

01 – What Did We Do to You To Deserve This?

This is a timely politically charged song that is an indictment on the age old tale of the rich protecting themselves and the poor being repressed (same as it ever was), when the strain of being in charge is also coupled with an attack on public by the establishment and the lies are coming out of the cracks on a sinking ship.  It has a large portion of Northern Soul to the music which gives it a warm, retro feeling as soon as you drop the needle.  I love the sound that they have created on this track, you can dance to it and it makes you think at the same time.

02 – Get High (No, I Don’t)

This song is a simple number in some ways, a song about not wanting to get wasted and even if it was right or legal, would you want to do it?  It holds conflict in the chorus, the verses are centred around the bass and it all adds up to a song which was released as a single before the album was released.  It also has a fantastic false ending that will catch out a lot of people upon their first listen.  It is fun, but with a serious message message – great song.

03 – What Equals Love

This song could be read in many different ways.  It could be about a failed relationship, it could be a song than contains a political message in the mix, it could just a simple Indie Disco hit.  What I can confirm is that it has an 80’s vibe to the music (don’t let that put you off) and bring the fun along with the message (whatever that may be).  I am really enjoying this song as it works on so many different levels, it is such a fucking joy.

04 – Risk to Exist

A song about refugees, their plight and how we should be acting to assist then (instead of inbred nationalism and closing the door), this song looks at why these people are risking their lives to escape the hell that they are in.  It is a brilliant song, it has that mix of their sound which was starting to develop on ‘Too Much Information’ and a hint of other influences to their current sound (Northern Soul, 80’s synth, disco) and creates a brilliant number that contains a political and humanist heart and message.

05 – I’ll Be Around

A song about feeling helpless when the system seems to be fixed in favour of the rich and powerful, leaving the people who actually need and require help/assistance to the dogs.  It has a simplistic style about it, it is uncomplicated and very much to the point.  Musically, it is a number that lets the words do the talking, but it brings in horns when required, rises the keyboards when called upon and they come together with the rest of the band to make one of those songs which may well end up being the sleep hit of the album.

06 – Work and Then Wait

A song about defying people who are suppressing you, standing up for rights and the curse of the right wing of the political spectrum. It is a powerful message that is fitting for the current state of the world and one which I totally agree with.  It is a great song, I truly love every note, word and the message is powerful.  However, one small thing – the main chorus riff is awfully close the ‘Where Is My Mind’ by the Pixies, there is enough distance between each song, but it is only just.

07 – The Hero

A song about the injustice of the world, but to a beat that has such a danceable quality that it should come with a health warning. There is the aforementioned injustice of the world, there is the need to remember when to compromise and when to stand true to oneself, plus a reminder that your heroes do not always walk the right path for you.  I love the way this sounds, it is a subtle number that gets under your skin and leaves a lasting impression.

08 – The Reason I Am Here

This song is about looking forward and never looking back, the stupidity of blaming all their issues on foreigners as directed by the media/the political parties and that it always pays to have an openand questioning mind.  I like the lyrics and they have depth and continue the good form of the album.  The music though, that does not quite meet the highest of other songs on this album, which is a little bit of a shame for me.

09 – Make What You Can

A song about the cultural change in the world, how it has become socially acceptable to be (for want of a better word) a self-serving dick.  But it also contains the message that you must at least attempt to get your point across to these people as they are wrecking the future for everyone.  It is a strong message that gets to the point straight away, musically it is one that takes a few listens to show itself properly – i.e. a grower and that quite often than not, works in the favour of the song in the long term.

10 – Respond to The Feeling

At this point you may think that the band might have changed tact and stop talking politics – think again.  This is the strongest political statement on the album, one that gets to the root of a lot of political arguments that are currently in vogue.  It is a brilliant number, one that has some biting comments and the music is subtly brilliant!  From beginning to end, this is the top track of the album, hands down.

11 – Alchemy

A song about the jargon of the modern-day messages, their forms, ways of communications and how it can be frustrating and confusing to a lot of people.  It is not the big bang ending that some people will have been expecting, but musically it is in keeping with the album and it has a great hook in the chorus.  Also, I think it was the obvious choice to end the album out of all the tracks on offer, it seems to build itself up into a peak with such ease and composure, it brings in the ending of this album with everything having been said and done (for now at least).

It really comes to something when Maxïmo Park are releasing the biggest political album of the year (and just after an early general election has been called in the UK) and I do not mean that with disrespect, it is such a huge revelation that I cannot help but applaud the band.  It is also something that makes this band a little more endearing to me, raising their profile higher and it was pretty high to start with.  It is not as if they have not done this sort of thing before, but they have gone out, looked at the current state of the world and nailed it to the wall on this album.  Their hearts (and political) motivations are placed with pride on their sleeves, it sings to me in way that I was not expecting when I first started to listen to this record.  They are not going through the motions on this album, they are fighting with everything that they possess and have come back with an album that matches ‘Too Much Information’ in terms of quality and style.  'Risk to Exist' is another contender for album of the year, make no mistake about that.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost

Top track – Respond to The Feeling

You can purchase one of the versions of Risk to Exist on Amazon here.

You can visit the Maxïmo Park website here.

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