MAXIMO PARK were one of a raft of “post post-punk” bands who sprung up about a decade ago, and featured regularly in Art Rocker magazine.
The truth, however, is Maximo Park shared little in common with Bloc Party, the Young Knives, Franz Ferdinand, The Rakes, Lomax, The Futureheads et al. All had different influences, but they all had nice ties, sharp guitars and songs that would clock in under three and a half minutes, so were generally banded together.
They had an immense early single, Graffiti (“I’ll do graffiti if you sing to me in French”) and a dazzling debut album, A Certain Trigger, containing a clutch of hits and potential hits, such as Limassol and Going Missing.
So here we are, at album No.5, Too Much Information, a work that may lack the immediacy and thrust of Trigger, so requires more attention, and for that, an attention to detail. It’s an album that’s on location: singer and primary songwriter Paul Smith takes us to “near the Palace Hotel”, “on Princess Street where we used to meet”, and another hotel, this time on a Scottish island; he even takes us to a floodlit tennis court and the Observation Lounge of that Scottish hotel. Details and information are important to Smith, as the title mockingly suggests.
Unusually, the notes contain recommended reading, books by the likes of Alan Warner and Lydia Davis, the character in Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry.
Maximo Park hail from Newcastle, north-east England, a place where the accent is only understandable to the natives. Smith makes little attempt to disguise his accent on record, and it sounds all the better for it.
This is an album that has a storytelling thread, you’re working what is happening in that remote hotel, (Leave This Island), and questioning why people are playing sports at night (Midnight On The Hill).
This bookishness is reflected in Her Name Was Audre, who is lodged in the local library, on the rockiest of the 11 tracks. It concludes with Where We’re Going, one of those slumbersome tracks that bands tag on at the end of the album, as if it is too embarrassing to be any higher.
Let’s rewind. Give, Get, Take is the kind of opener you’d expect: confident, robust and entertaining. Second up, Brain Cells, is part-confessional, part inward looking, done to a cast-off Royksopp B-side. Leave This Island, as we’ve already discovered, is set in a remote area, and sounds like it would be the music being played in the car as a couple return home after a tense and relationship-defining weekend away.
The bookish tendencies and the considered lyrics give Too Much Information a certain gravitas; but this also kinds some basic faults. Musically, it sounds tired and insipid, other than Give, Get, Take and Her Name Was Audre. There are songs that look good on paper, but sound stodgy. But, as I said earlier, it requires patience, and this will bring rewards.