A few years back I found myself at a Dalston flat at 4am slightly the worse for wear. Two girls were dancing drunkenly in the living room in front of me to some landfill indie sounds. At a certain point as I was falling into a slumber on the sofa, so one of them dragged my exhausted body up to make me gyrate with her. The words “I’m not dancing to this crap” spewed forth from my mouth, possibly alongside some dribbles of tequila, and I fell back again. But I remembered the song, as the girls were singing along whilst doing that strange indie dance that people do in other people’s apartments at sunrise. It was ‘Acrobat’ by Maximo Park. It stuck with me .
It was a dreadful song, all whiney Moz-esque vocals and badly-played guitars with far too much echo. I made sure I listened to it sober the next day, just to verify its awfulness. It was even worse in the cold light of day.
Thankfully Maximo Park looked to have sunk without trace soon after. No big loss. That was, until a couple of years ago, whilst washing up I heard something on the radio. All sexy and groovesome… “The way you stick out your lips, and keep your hands on your hips…and I’m supposed to know” – a great bleepy sequencer riff, yearning vocals and crashing, all-consuming rawk guitars. This time I danced. This is good I thought. Hmmm. Who could it be? What? No. Really? ‘Hips and Lips’ built and built and sounded like a hit. It even had a great, funny accompanying video which went viral, with good reason, And whilst associated album The National Health wasn’t the total rehabilitation and comeback (if they ever went away) I had hoped for, expectations being fairly low, it pointed the way for what was to come. And here they are now with their superfast follow-up ‘Too Much Information’. And while it’s nothing radically new in the alt-rock cannon, it’s a pretty solid album for 2014. The Morrissey comparison is never far away, with wordy, often over-indulgent lyrics used as much for effect as for emotion. “I feel this wealth of perspiration…you walked down the inspiration” sings Paul Smith on ‘Give, Get, Take’. Errr, well, quite Paul. And “We watch the water swell/From a Scottish Hotel” (‘Leave this Island’) is pure The Queen is Dead.
But musically it’s a step-on. So the likes of ‘Drinking Martinis’ and ‘Her Name Was Audrey’ possess a certain nostalgic melancholy not heard for some time, and ‘Midnight on the Hill’ is actually quite swoonsome, the couplet “The bubbles and you know/spill on your summer clothes” being both sexy and knowing. Structures ebb and flow, with a nod to Radiohead here, a flurry of early Pixies there. It’s still guitar, bass, drum, but why mess with a classic set-up, especially if you play as well as this? Crisp, urgent production and sultry songs left hanging (as opposed to hanging around) and it’s all done in well under 40 minutes. Brevity is good in pop music. The best pop song ever was under three minutes. Primal Scream’s finest moment ‘Velocity Girl’ was 82 seconds long. Maximo Park understand this. Unless they just can’t play guitar solos. Every band needs a second, and sometimes third or fourth chance, and we all need time and space to grow. With ‘Too Much Information’, you get the feeling that Maximo Park have done their apprenticeship and are just starting as songwriters and craftsmen. So don’t call it a comeback. Call it a beginning.