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Maxïmo Park - Risk To Exist

  • Published in Albums

We were at uni in Newcastle when Maxïmo Park broke into the mainstream with their energetic, anthemic indie tunes.  Their music was - and still is - distinguishable from other bands in the same genre largely because of Paul Smith’s distinctive tones; now, over ten years on from the release of their debut A Certain Trigger, do they still stand out?

Risk To Exist is the band’s sixth studio album, and Smith’s admitted that this album has “more socially-minded lyrics”, and is a little “groovier” than its predecessors.  Certainly, having accidentally left the music on shuffle, we couldn’t necessarily distinguish the new tracks from early Maxïmo Park, but there is definitely a progression of sorts.  

The album does have a political slant to it; album opener ‘What Did We Do To Deserve This’ appears to be an anti-Brexit ode, with lines like "this is not the good days", "Let’s all pretend to tell the truth", and "what did we do you to deserve this?" almost being spat out.  Equally, ‘Work And Then Wait’ shares some of the vitriol from the off; “The Old Boys club has been throwing its weight around/It’s been around so long and I’m sick of the sound”. “I won’t be put in my place,” Smith continues; “The hand that giveth is set to taketh away/They strip you of your dignity/They make you work and then wait”.  He goes on to comment on “right-wing views” - just in case the message was unclear.  

The Hero' is quite a funky number, with driving chords and a bit of a disco beat.  However, listen more acutely and the message is far from fun: “They say money doesn’t change a thing/but you can bet that they’re not suffering/ when you’re on the lowest rung/ you’re going to get stung.” The music seems at odds with the lyrics; such an upbeat soundtrack grates a little with the discontented wording.

The two songs most in line with previous Maxïmo Park releases are probably ‘The Reason I Am Here’ and the title track, which has been released as the lead single.  Each track showcases the anthemic chorus the band is known for and both seem to have the energy of old. 'Risk To Exist' in particular wouldn’t be amiss next to 'Apply Some Pressure' or 'Velocity', with its gun-fire-like drums and catchy refrain.  

Other tracks include 'Get High (No, I Don’t)', a catchy but somewhat wishy-washy contribution, and 'I’ll Be Around' - both definite album tracks. Paul Smith’s questioning continues in 'What Equals Love', though his attentions turn to love rather than government here.  

Ultimately, there are two main themes running across Risk To Exist: empathy and solidarity.  They crop up in almost every song, and it’s clear that Smith has a lot he wants to get off his chest with regard to both, whether that’s politically or romantically.  Musically, there’s a touch of soul injected into each track; as Smith mentioned, things are a little funkier - although everything still has that undeniable Maxïmo Park sound.

When there’s a band that reminds you of a certain period of your life, it can be hard to move on with them as they progress musically as you cling on to the nostalgia. Ten years ago we were pogoing along to 'Graffiti' in the basement of the student union with a belly full of cider and a heart full of hope.  We’ve all got older, wiser and a little more cynical - but Maxïmo Park are still belting out the tunes we used to know and love in the beginning.  Risk To Exist is a bit different, but it’s not different enough to alienate existing fans, unless you disagree with Smith’s politics - but then you probably wouldn’t be listening to this anyway.

Risk To Exist is available from amazon & iTunes.   


Future Islands - O2 Academy, Newcastle

  • Published in Live

One of the most anticipated shows for quite a while, as Future Islands finally return to Newcastle after rocketing into the public eye some eighteen months ago. Having been at their only previous show in the city this was something of a change up from somewhere that is a tenth of the size to tonight’s Academy show.

However, there are two intriguing support acts to tackle before we have the pleasure of Sam Herring’s dancing, first up is local act Du Blonde although you’d be confused as to her origin due to her wildly different accent. Her set seems to lack any excitement, with her bland tracks all sounding like something we’ve heard all too many times before.

Apart from the die hard few at the front the biggest cheers come as she welcomes Future Islands front man, Sam on to the stage to duet with her. Following on from this lacklustre set, an altogether different prospect takes to the stage and turns everything up to eleven as Dope Body hurtles into view. Whilst many look bemused again a die-hard few at the front are in complete awe of these four guys from Baltimore.

With screamed lyrics and angst-ridden songs they put on an incredible show, and whilst they may or may not turn heads for the right reasons we’re completely amazed by them. All of this though is supplementary as this packed crowd are waiting in anticipation of one of the most entertaining bands around.

As they take to the stage they immediately look taken aback by the rapturous reception, citing their previous show and how this one is a little bigger. In no time at all they lift the entire crowds spirits with some excellent dance moves, and a trio of tracks lifted from Singles. The early highlight being 'A Dream of You and Me', this beautiful synth track is the first of many hands in the air moments that become commonplace in tonight’s set.

Their groovy synth lines coupled with Sam’s one of a kind vocals are truly brilliant, if there was one thing that lets down the evening it is the poor sound in the venue. However, to some extent this is out of the bands control and regardless of this they continue at a blistering pace, as they play tracks from their incredible back catalogue including the considerably darker 'Before The Bridge'.

Whilst it is somewhat darker it still possesses that beautiful synthesised delicacy, that is always present in Future Islands tracks. Similarly there are a plethora of tracks from In Evening Air on show this evening, for us 'An Apology' and the wonderful 'Tin Man' are particular highlights of the evening. Sam’s ever distinctive vocal style is so brilliantly evident on 'An Apology', the way he switches between his normal voice to this almost demonic tone has us captivated by his brilliance.

There’s another highlight in the form of 'Seasons (Waiting on You)', which forms part of a huge singalong and another huge hands in the air moment for this packed crowd. Yet as they return for an encore of some of their finer older works we’re left fawning over Sam’s phenomenal dance moves, and his incessantly humble banter as he proceeds to thank everyone possible.

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