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) Reluctant Love(heartbreaking) 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.
I only started listening to Maximo Park about 6 months ago having been lent the first CD A Certain Trigger by a friend who used to play keyboards in a band that I played drums in. The CD sat around for a while and I played bits of the songs but never really listened. When I really did start to listen I became hooked and have since bought all the CDs.
The National Health is excellent. There are no bad tracks though some are more stand out than others. People will have their own favourites but for me the title track, Undercurrents, Hips and Lips, Banlieu, Wolf Among Men and Waves of Fear are the best.
All the tracks have a sonic richness and variety which excites and interests. In the earlier albums there will often be 2 sonically different bridges per song which is pretty impressive. The songs are all quite short in conventional terms but are extremely well crafted. Could they be a bit longer?
Musically there seem to be a lot of influences going on with almost 80s electro-pop, 90s swooping keys and the hint of Led Zep in Waves of Fear.
The overall sound is more polished and perhaps grown up from the first 2 albums and the content is less "edgy"
I think Paul Smith is at his best writing love songs but there is a lot of lyrical interest and intelligence going on which just makes you want to listen to what he has to say
I'm not really sure why Maximo Park aren't better known in the UK
This is a really good album and deserves a great deal of credit
Without doubt this is Maximo Park's best album! Whilst "Our Earthly Pleasures" and "Quicken the Heart" were by no means bad, neither never quite reached the heights of a "Certain Trigger" in my opinion. In many ways "The National Health" is better. A must buy!!!
O.K. I'll make this quick. First up, it's not a protest album despite the title. If you've heard of Maximo Park before then there are no surprises here it's more of the same, just better. It has the quality of a greatest hits album, with no filler to waste your time. Better than their last two and as good as their first. If you're a fan you'll be happy, if you're undecided give a try, it's worth it.
In an age when listeners are more prone to only dip into a few token tracks of a band for individual song downloads its therefore all the more refreshing to find an album where the whole collection of songs is so engaging that it can be left on repeat. Not all of these Maximo Park tunes stood out immediately to me on this new release but after 4 or 5 plays the winsome lyrics of Mr Smith and music hooks had weaved their magic and I became totally immersed in this album. There is a cohesiveness on The National Health that becomes more pleasing with every play as 'the Park' seem to have fused together the best of all their works to date. Whatever the medical state of this nation Maximo Parks album certainly passes its fitness test with a clean bill of health!
I hope that Maximo's Park latest isn't going to get overlooked. I fear it might, just as this band has been criminally overlooked since they formed. This is quality output from a homegrown band at full tilt. Please, please spread the word. Hips and Lips, The Undercurrents, Reluctant Love and This is what becomes of the brokenhearted are divine tunes that simply get better with each play. I salute the lads, The National Health is the best I've heard this year. Congrats, guys!
I always have an mp3 disc in my car with 6 albums on it (a hangover from a 6 CD multichanger) and replace albums as I get tired of them, or I need the space for new ones. I can't bring myself to remove this album, even though albums are stacking up on my computer. To me, all Maximo Park albums tend to sound the same at first listening, but hook you in somehow; this album is no exception. Definitely passes the car test!
I bought this on the basis of a couple of songs I'd heard on the radio. I've always been aware of Maximo Park and liked the odd song but never bought anything by them. This is an excellent album all the way through and I haven't done my usual trick of over listening to just the two or so tracks that I knew before! I'm going to check out more by them now, feel like I've been missing out! I thoroughly recommend this.