So, Maximo Park are back.
If that’s a sentence that fills you with any sort of measurable excitement, the good news is that you’ll be pleased by what follows in this review. To be fair, if you’ve never liked Maximo Park before, there’s likely to be no reason why this album will change your mind.
Regardless, ‘The National Health‘ showcases Maximo Park’s talent from start to finish. Unlike the subsequent follow ups to their sensational debut ‘A Certain Trigger‘, ‘The National Health’ is a consistent record. A consistently good record. This time, Maximo Park have not let you down.
It’s an album of well crafted and well executed songs, but there’s no reinvention of the Maximo Park wheel. Instead, the band are lovably familiar. New-wave guitars clang and drums are ferociously pummelled. Frontman Paul Smith yelps along to super-sized choruses and, most notably for the uninitiated, the songs are played fast. Really, really fast.
The title track is case in point. It’s an absolute barnstormer, overflowing with brio and energy. The exhilarating highpoint comes in the form of a screeching, Coxon-worthy guitar break. Throughout, Smith is all pent up frustration as he suggests things “may change tomorrow” alongside sympathetic backing vocals. Near the end, it seems to get even faster, as if only through the self-assuredness and enthusiasm of the playing.
Perversely, ‘The National Health’ begins not with the above – as musical logic would suggest – but with a one minute piano ballad called ‘When I Was Wild‘. Plaintive, almost Radiohead depressing with its deathly minor chords, it’s an oh so beautiful lament to simpler times.
Meanwhile ‘Reluctant Love‘ is an easy, breezy pop song. Played at a more carefree pace with melodic piano fills and unobtrusive rhythm guitar, Smith pleads, ‘pull me closer, press yourself against me’. ’Write This Down‘ features the excellent line ‘we spent the summer kissing in a basement room/learning all the rules’. A nauseating (and possibly unnecessary) synth line occupies the verses before it all explodes into a nuclear chorus: “I won’t always be around, you better write this down/ I’m gonna leave without a sound, you better write this down.” Penultimate track, ‘Unfamiliar Places‘ is the obligatory lighters aloft acoustic ballad. It has its charms, but means ‘The National Health’ begins to lose momentum as the second last hurdle.
Aside from this, the key to ‘The National Health’ is the age-old indicator for any good album – it doesn’t drag. The best songs are over almost too quickly, the slightly more skippable ones are short enough (and rare enough) to avoid being frustrating.
If ‘The National Health’ is any indication, Maximo Park are in very good health indeed.
(Luke Henriques-Gomes)Just Published: