Maximo Park - Too Much Information
Was gonna do a job on this, you know? As you do, like. Quick glance over the promo bumph and a bit of Googling to check for anything obvious – perhaps a change of direction that discerning readers (or, more crucially, the Editor) might just spot. ("Kaill - any reason you didn't highlight the switch from indie pop to Sengalese tribal folk after be-hatted frontman Paul Smith's life-changing African odyssey?") Perhaps, if time allowed (unlikely - we're all busy, right?), give it a quick listen, even. Eleven songs, 30 seconds a song - we can all find five minutes right? Yeah, yeah, that's pushing it but you gotta at least look professional. So yeah, there you have it - 200 words on the new Maximo Park album. It's what the world's been waiting for. And guess what? You know how the Geordie five piece (facts, readers, facts!) were always this likeable enough alternative to the dreary mannerisms of so much mid-table Brit indie pop, a cut above the soggy norm, but never quite as distinct or stirring as your real scene-leading firebrands? Yeah, well, guess what - they still are. There you go. Over and out. Six out of ten and home in time for tea.
Only this bugger ain't playing it that way. Too Much Information squats over your expectations like an untrained puppy on your neighbour's lawn. You don't wanna hear this, busy as you are with your Jizz Bottles and your Death Bastard Hellsucker but this is a fucking diamond and, on this evidence, Maximo Park are still worthy contenders. Ignore the advance blurb that suggests they've transformed into Kraftwerk. Unlike just about every other act on the circuit, here's a band who hasn't had their guitars pinched. But Too Much Information is a hungry beast and as such, a fuller, deeper set of arrangements give it colour and shape. Keyboards! Programming! Beats! Gosh - what time is it? 2014? Blow me down.
At the root of it all lies lead man Paul Smith's expansive worldview, a sharp combo of winning optimism and bruised regret. Much of Too Much Information gains its emotional purchase through those expansive narratives, pinpoint reflections that trace events, capture places, storyboard all those broken hearts. Always the broken hearts. (Smith's, yours, mine. Smith's writing is inclusive, high on empathy, and, note, reads uncommonly well on the printed page.) Like the smartest chroniclers of the human condition, he illuminates the humdrum, posits silver atop the grey. His preference for reflection over sloganeering might not catapult Maximo Park to the top of your thrill list but it builds community and it cements their continuing and deserving foothold in the shifting sands of the benighted 'scene'.
In a uniformly strong set, highlights jostle for your love. Get ready to fall for the epic ‘Leave This Island’ where Smith’s late night brooding comes alive: “Have you ever been undone by a slip of the tongue / And betrayed a side of you that felt hard won?” At times, as in ‘Drinking Martinis’, a harsh light illuminates the candour: “Above a bar called Tokyo, we watched the road where traffic flows / Selective of the drinks we buy, we used to drink the river bed dry…you and I.” While his band mates explore their fulsome sound board, Smith mixes skewed poetics (“A flood lit tennis court, we play nocturnal sports” – ‘Midnight on the Hill’) and pointed confessionals to devastating effect. For the inflexible hardcore, a handful of whip crack guitar workouts remain but it’s the subtle switch to a synth-led sound that lifts Too Much Information’s best moments.
It's all about choice, kids. Be a dick and presumptuously dismiss them if you like, but Maximo Park return scrubbed-up and duty-bound to explore and stretch their boundaries, and that's the kind of ambition that warrants more than a little respect. In fact, it’s worth noting now just much of their back catalogue has been literate and arresting, indie pop aimed at both the heart and the mind and Too Much Information is no different. Well, apart from the fact that it's better. Take heed. The search for this year's model, tomorrow's shining thrill, doesn't always have to come at the expense of those who deserve an ounce or so of loyalty. Stick with Maximo Park. Spare them the brickbats of our cultural ADHD. Give them their due and do yourself a favour into the bargain. Here endeth the lesson.