You can't read the newspaper while listening to Maximo Park's new album The National Health.Complete aural attention to it is essential. Dedicated to the memory of Lee Pasfield,the band's former soundman,who tragically succumbed to brain cancer in 2009,this new album from Maximo Park is very powerful indeed.
Thirteen tracks packed with vitality,doom,heartbreak,hope,concern for the state of the country and for the world,and sonic bliss,command the listener to sit up and give their full attention to the songs.
Now somewhat matured with their sound,helped enormously by producer Gil Norton,MP stamp their musical individuality indelibly onto this album,much as they did with their debut one A Certain Trigger,back in 2005.
Lead singer Paul Smith,still only 33,has retained his position as indie music's classiest frontman,demonstrating a theatricality and vocal professionalism rare in today's crop of new(ish!) bands.
Keysman Lukas Wooller's stylish playing is a big part of the album,whilst the musical ability of guitarist Duncan Lloyd has contributed a sizeable chunk to the songs.
Tom English,the band's drummer,bolsters up the quintet with his solid drumwork-and bassist Archis Tiku is rock solid in there!
To dissect- standout tracks are:The National Health(urgent and chaotic),Write This Down(acerbic and vicious,but in a good way),Until The Earth Would Open(sad,wistful and visionary),Unfamiliar Places(yearning and poignant). I particularly liked the short intro When I Was Wild,which showcases Paul Smith's poetic talent in song.
The tracks are all very different,but joined by that slightly disturbing essence which this band are now well-known for.
The CD's cover artwork deserves a mention too.Depicting a graphically-designed black bird on a shocking pink background,it was inspired by Vorticist WW1 artist Wyndham Lewis's picture Blast.The bird can be viewed either way up and still have a meaning..."Sink or Swim"is the message of this album...take responsibility for your own life.It's in your hands.
The last two lines of the last track on the album Waves Of Fear,sum up Maximo Park's prophetic stance in the indie music scene of the 21st Century.
We're not going to leave
Until you're ready.
There are also four acoustic songs on the deluxe edition of The National Health CD.These include:
The Undercurrents(a lovely yearning track)
Hips And Lips(Lukas Wooller's piano led ballad)
Until The Earth Would Open-my current favourite of the four songs.The music to this one was written by Duncan Lloyd,the founder of Maximo Park and probably the unsung member of the band.
A surefire hit.Highly recommended.