By rights we shouldn’t be reviewing the fifth LP by Maximo Park at this stage at all. However, unbeknown to the Geordie band, who initially set out to lay down a five track EP with Field Music’s David and Peter Brewis, they hit such a creative stride, five tracks swelled to a heady mass of eleven, forming the body of their latest long player, Too Much Information. Along with the brothers Brewis, Maximo Park themselves produced a number of songs, as well as The Invisibles Dave Okumu. It’s a fitting title, ‘Too Much Information’ as the record itself has a fresh legacy of fingers in its creative pie while the quintet stated the title refers to the plethora of sounds found within.
Speaking with NME recently vocalist Paul Smith indicated that Too Much Information is “a straight split between pure electronic pop and the more band-y stuff”. As summations go, Smith is fairly accurate in defining his collective’s latest endeavour. What should sound like a band venturing into unchartered waters actually comes across as Maximo Park uncertainly dipping their toes into electronica whilst struggling to let go of their indie disco past. Too Much Information smacks of a band attempting to reach for the Avant Garde but lacking the conviction to fully immerse themselves in the world of digital pop. The signs aren’t promising with the laboured Maximo Park by numbers opening ‘Give, Get, Take’ which has the band firing at full tilt like they’re still cocooned in 2005. Vocally, Smith appears less than enamoured with the sonics around him, with a vocal that illustrates a man going through the motions. Smith himself states “Where do we go from here?” during the song’s final breath. Maximo Park sound bored of being Maximo Park.
As if shedding their trademark skin, the following tracks ‘Brain Cells’ and ‘Leave This Island’ shimmy with the electronica Smith references earlier. Gone are the rushed hi hats and choppy riffs, and instead leftfield waves of digital noise, scattered beats and a glacial tone that suits Maximo Park like the sharp suited men they are. Even Smith’s recognisable Newcastle tone is substituted for a disembodied coo, uttering the words “I wanted to try something different this time” on ‘Brain Cells’ – Too Much Information is all the better for this experimentation.
After the two synthscapes odes, Too Much Information descends into a Jekyll and Hyde battle of the old indie scamps of yore and the new adventurous digital explorers of now. Neither party really wins with an uncertain direction and a jarring mesh that occasionally pays off but ultimately, ‘Brain Cells’ and ‘Leave This Island’ capture the band at their most experimental and with it, most enticing.
‘Lydia, The Ink Never Will Never Dry’ combines the past and present Maximo Park with pleasing results ushering in the ambience and silence of electronic music but played out on organic instrumentation. However, onwards into the core of the group’s fifth endeavour they try their hands at rockier numbers that sound akin to ‘High Voltage’ by Electric Six, ‘My Bloody Mind’ falls foul to this. ‘Is It True?’ misses a trick when the song builds to a crescendo but doesn’t erupt into a rush of dancefloor slaying synths, instead opting for mid pace nonchalance and Smith attempting seductive voyeurism but failing miserably and in turn comes across as creepy, “You can tell I’m into you/no need to play it cool”. ‘Her Name Is Audrey’ finds the Newcastle boys aping The Vaccines with a frenzied drum solo to kick things off and a dirty rock n roll riff that’s quickly diluted by the band injecting in Maximo Park formula 101 in the worst case of self-sabotage.
The album closes off with Smith summing up Too Much Information accurately “I don’t know where we’re going” It’s evident that Maximo Park are in an uncertain limbo currently, do they plough the furrows of indie disco circa 2005 although all the punters have moved on and a new breed of indie scamp rules the roost, or embark on an electronic voyage into a digital world? The latter is where Too Much Information is at its most vibrant with the band free of their past lives. Smith and Co are at a creative crossroads, they should opt for the signpost labelled “electronic-experimentation”.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams