Maxïmo Park have had the 2000s indie band’s archetypal ‘rollercoaster’ career. Beginning with their 2005 ‘burst on to the scene’ album A Certain Trigger, the Newcastle five-piece went on to greater success with their second album, claiming the number two spot in the charts. Yet on their subsequent effort the band seemed to be dwindling, and lead singer Paul Smith’s solo album only enhanced the feeling that the band were quickly running out of steam. This was before having a revival of sorts with their ‘return to form’ release The National Health in 2012, which showed that the boys weren’t just going to lie down and let themselves fade away. So what could be next for the band with fluctuating fortunes and a penchant for scissor-kicks?
As they’ve aged into their 30s, the guitar led angst of the band’s younger days has mellowed, and in recent years Maxïmo Park have struck hardest when letting their keyboards take centre stage. A shining example of this is the driving single of their 2012 revitalisation, ‘Hips And Lips’. It is with some relief then that Too Much Information opens with the warbling synths of ‘Give, Get, Take’, which sets the album off with some of Smith’s standard ponderings about what the hell is happening in his love life. The synths continue into ‘Brain Cells’, which sounds like a fantastic mix of the moody, echoing ambience of Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk’s computer beepery, and stick around for ‘Leave This Island’, where these are accompanied by charmingly clumsy lyrics like “Are you gonna tell me why there’s a bag packed by the bedroom window?”, reminding us that Smith is still the same awkward indie kid who enjoys bowler hats a bit too much.
Yet all the way through Too Much Information, there is a constant feeling that Smith’s tongue is perhaps not as razor sharp as it once was, or as the album’s cover art promises it to be. This is particularly the case on ‘Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’, which is filled with unimpressive couplets, and where the band also choose to ignore their newfound electronic side in favour of something a lot less remarkable. But it is ‘My Bloody Mind’ which is the album’s main disappointment, despite its beginning, so boisterous that it sounds like the guitars and drums are competing to make the most noise, the song soon falls flat as the band fail to maintain its momentum, resulting in something which is neither as brooding nor as infectiously catchy as the rest of the album.
The album is laced with Smith’s ever-present Geordie twang, and his vocals are as good as they’ve ever been on the wonderfully understated ‘Drinking Martinis’, where he seems so utterly consumed with exhaustion that he might give up singing altogether at any moment. Still, the band become fully reinvigorated as the album begins to wrap up. ‘I Recognise The Light’ is straight out of 2005, all jaunty chords and guitars playing at full-speed, and ‘Her Name Was Audre’ is vintage Maxïmo Park, a post-punk frolic about falling in love with a girl who spends all her time in the local library, proving that they can still create the excitement of their early days.
In part looking forward to a fresher electronic future, but also returning to songs with the same frenetic energy which helped them generate such a buzz ten years ago, Maxïmo Park have consolidated their rebirth and showed that they shouldn’t be written off quite yet. On album closer ‘Where We’re Going’ Smith sings the simple line, “I don’t know where we’re going” – neither do I Paul, but I can’t wait to hear it.