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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

Maximo Park - Too Much Information Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 02.11.2014

My 2014 Reviews:
Ed Harcourt - Time of Dust [8.0]
Warpaint - Warpaint [9.0]
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues [7.0]
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust [9.0]
Mogwai - Raves Tapes [4.0]
Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter [6.0]
You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth [5.5]
Gaslight Anthem - The B-Sides [6.5]
Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force [8.0]
Within Temptation - Hyrda [8.5]
Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow [8.0]
The Rifles - None the Wiser [5.0]
Skindred - Kill the Power [7.0]

Maximo Park is:
Paul Smith – vocals
Duncan Lloyd – guitar
Archis Tiku - bass
Lukas Wooller – keyboards
Tom English - drums

Maximo ParkToo Much Information

Track listing:
1. Give, Get, Take
2. Brain Cells
3. Leave This Island
4. Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry
5. My Bloody Mind
6. Is It True
7. Drinking Martinis
8. I Recognise the Light
9. Midnight on the Hill
10. Her Name Was Audre
11. Where We're Going
Running time: 34:49

Seven or eight years ago Too Much Information would be a sure fire Top 5 hit album in a number of charts around the world, especially the UK. Think back to 2007 where these faux-indie rock bands were popping up all over the place: I believe they were described as “angular.” Off the back of the mammoth success of Arctic Monkeys you had the likes of The Enemy, The Kooks, The Pigeon Detectives and The Fratellis. And they all began with “the.” Except We Are Scientists. And Maximo Park obviously. The fact that I can't think of single Enemy or Kooks track off the top of my head, despite owning all the albums, is an indication of how well many of these artists have aged. Believe it or not but Too Much Information is album number five from Maximo Park and while it isn't going to be likely to storm the charts any time soon, it pays homage to the sound of such bands while managing to find its place in 2014 by incorporating, wait for it, electronics! Synths and keyboards aplenty! This is nothing new, if I had a pound for every album I'd review this year that has thrown in some random electronic elements to bring it right up to date I'd have, at least, a fiver. Nevertheless, there's a negative correlation between the band's chart positioning and confidence seemingly, as they've never sounded quite as comfortable in their own skin as they do on Too Much Information.

A lot of the record's success has to do with Paul Smith and his vocal and lyrical ability. The angular sound of last decade wasn't well known for its lyrical subtlety but Smith's quick-witted quips are aplenty here, he's all metaphor and innuendo from start to finish. “Have you ever been undone / by the slip of a tongue / betrayed a side of you that felt hard won,” swoons Smith on the synth-driven “Leave This Island.” It's a down-tempo, sexual remedy of tongue in cheek lyricism and driving synths that's almost too highbrow for its own good – is managing to drop words like “semaphore” just trying too hard for the sake of it? Regardless, it's the record's first belting track after the more straight-forward and bouncy opener “Give, Get, Take” and the melancholy “Brain Cells.” What all these tracks do have in common however, is a fun-filled chorus that I can confidently say will send many a crowd into a tizzy when the band tours this record in the coming months. “Brain Cells” is one of those tracks you have to stand and admire, it's simplistic psychedelica confines you to its rapture and commands your attention. And again, the vocal is key – whereas we might be used to a vocal technique that can only be described as yelping, Smith's vocal on Too Much Information is much more understated and poignant. It's actually the opposite of “too much information.” It's enchanting.

With all this talk of electronic soundscapes and synths early on you'd be forgiven for thinking the band had ditched their guitar-heavy sound in favour something all together more modern but that theory is dismissed on the riff-heavy “Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry.” Again, where the song succeeds is its wry lyricism that actually provides something just a bit more interesting than a catchy riff or two. The track's chorus is ever-so-slightly more subtle but the song swells with a minute to go with a winding guitar breakdown. With a gnarling vocal and plea to a former lover, it's all a bit Smiths but very, very appealing. “My Bloody Mind” suffers from over-production but it is a quintessential Maximo Park track. It's driven by that angular guitar sound and would be right at home in any indie/alternative club night across London. Half Cribs, half Strokes, it perfects the sound and shows that the band still knows how to write an anthem. “Is It True” takes us back to a synth love-in, but there's enough angst amongst the melancholy to encourage a mild-mannered foot-tapping. It seems to be another ode to a former love, possibly the same one. Here more than on any other track, it's Smith's observation of subtle human behaviours give the track an overwhelming sense of intimacy and occasionally sadness. “Drinking Martinis” is more of the same, as Smith reminisces about lost nights spent shared with a female antagonist of similar inclination. Now, it would seem, he's drinking alone. This track shows that the band can mesh the electronic elements and their trademark riff-heavy sound quite well and make it work. Every element of the sound is given a decent showcase here and it's stand-out track from a record that so far is full of them.

“I Recognise the Light” is the shortest track on the record but also one of the best. Vocally Smith will sound more familiar to long-time fans – gone is the crooning lover, replaced by a jilted, bitter man with a snarl in his voice. Again, it sounds quite Strokes-y, but less Is This It and more Angles, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. At barely two minutes, the track leaves quite the impression and never threatens to overstay its welcome. “Midnight on the Hill” follows it up, and packs in as many puns as it possibly can in four minutes, and it's all a bit ambiguous - “flood-lit tennis courts / we played nocturnal sports / we wear our skewiff smiles.” Musically, it's the straight-forward guitar pop that fans will likely have come to expect from the band but the song-writing is much more streamlined and that is key to its success. “Her Name is Audrey” is a tantalizing penultimate track that is brought to life by its daring drums at the song's commence, proceeding album closer “Where We're Going,” an all together more ballady experience that ends the record on yet an another tone of reminiscent heartache. It's a rare moment where the song would actually benefit from adopting a bit of a more daring approach but a rare blip.

Maximo Park - “Leave This Island”

The 411: Rather than making an ill-advised attempt to make 2014 their own, Maximo Park has attempted to blend in with the sound of the times and they do so with surprising results. Borrowing moderately from some of the contemporary heavy-hitters such as Bastille and Hurts, Maximo Park embraces these mammoth synth soundscapes that have helped them make their most intriguing album since their Mercury-nominated debut nearly a decade ago. You will be rewarded for giving Too Much Information multiple listens. Of course, there's an argument to be made that this new approach has led to ideas bleeding into each other and not always meshing as well as they might – there's a bit of a longing for the band's angular hooks to return in full force, but there is just about enough there to keep long-term fans satisfied, I would think. Thankfully, the band have adapted sounds and themes ranging from 80s pop, to 90s Britpop and modern folk and encorporated them all into this new album. Too Much Information's greatest asset is its song-writing, lyricism and Paul Smith's vocal, which intertwines all these different ideas to in one, compact, just-over-half-hour joy of a record. It's not chock full of groundbreaking ideas, but it's clever, it's sexy, and it's an album you won't tire of any time soon.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend


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