Thursday, 30 January 2014

Flynndie Reviews: #43 Maxïmo Park - Too Much Information

Written 30th January 2014

Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information

The Band: Paul Smith (lead vocals), Duncan Lloyd (guitars/backing vocals), Archis Tiku (bass), Lukas Wooller (keys/synths/backing vocals) Tom English (drums)

What initially started out as a trip to the studio to record a new EP turned out to be much more successful than first planned and has seen Newcastle descendants and Indie and Electro pop-pickers Maxïmo Park instead return with this ‘Too Much Information’, their full-blown fifth studio album.  The follow-up to the band’s successful fourth record ‘The National Health’ (previously reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #26 here with an in-depth profile of the band), an album which in itself saw Maxïmo Park pushing their musical boundaries; furthering their sound as just simply as rocky guitar band and packing in a great range of tracks, from piano ballads and fuzzy, electro-rock (‘Hips and Lips’), to some tender acoustic ballads (‘The Undercurrents’, and ‘Unfamiliar Places’)  and of course the more traditional up-tempo, guitar-rock tracks the band are noted for from their earlier albums ‘A Certain Trigger’ and ‘Our Earthly Pleasures’.  So with a diverse and interesting range of back-catalogue tracks and albums already in their locker, how does fifth record ‘Too Much Information’ shape up for t’Park?

Too Much Information

1. Give, Get, Take
2. Brain Cells
3. Leave This Island
4. Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry
5. My Bloody Mind
6. Is It True?
7. Drinking Martinis
8. I Recognise The Light
9. Midnight On The Hill
10. Her Name Was Audre
11. Where We’re going

With twinkling synthesizers ‘Give, Get, Take’ gets us up and running before being fully backed by up-tempo percussion and further synth-sounding guitars, the chorus ringing through “You give a little…You get a little…You take a little more”.  It’s a bright up-beat track and hints at the electronic, synth-based direction the band take more with this record.  Second track ‘Brain Cells’ was previously the first comeback track released from the album and for me was a completely different and unexpected sound from the band, again very electronic with a synth-driven beat chipping away at it but much more slower and deliberate than that of the previous opening track; it’s quite lo-fi and understated and has a dark, mysterious chorus “Didn’t learn anything today/If I didn’t know my brain cells wear away”.  This is a much more different track than anything the band has done previously yet is still strange, fascinating and compelling none the less, with an isolated dance-vibe about it.  ‘Leave this Island’ is the first full single to be lifted from the album and continues the keyboard and synth-driven direction of the record so far with another shy but sparkling, synth rhythm running through its veins with light backing guitars.  It’s another deep, thought-provoking track full of mystery “Let me know when you want to leave this island/I’ll stand up for you”.

With a delightful track-title ‘Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry’ sees the first real guitar-driven track of the record so far, riding along with a very jangly, Smiths-like guitar at its heart while also reminding me of the band’s excellent past single ‘Books from Boxes’.  This is a much more familiar Maxïmo track and perhaps the most instant song on the album so far.  Up next ‘My Bloody Mind’ is the heaviest guitar track so far on the record, still backed with flirting synthesizers and a gritty, western like guitar rhythm and bass melody at its core, before a slight pause and some random spoken-vocals from Paul “A random phrase/Is as good any”.  It’s quite a charmer of a track and another more instant track on the record at this point.  An oriental sounding gong marks near the midway point through ‘Too Much Information’ and opens sixth-track ‘Is It True?’, initially a bass-driven track by Archis, while Duncan teases with shimmering guitar effects and Lukas’ keyboards give the track an extra dimension and a much fuller-feel; its a soft, seductive track, think along the lines of 80’s classic ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell but perhaps more poignant and with a slightly, darker underlying melody to it and you get an idea of the sound here.  ‘Drinking Martinis’ leans towards another guitar and percussion-driven track but this time soft and soulful “You were drinking Martinis in-front of me/But now that you’re gone/Do you feel anything?”  This is somewhat a playful, gentle ballad thrown into the mix midway through the record.  ‘I Recognise the Light’ starts off with quirky, upbeat and urgent duelling drums and guitars which form the basis for the track; it’s a catchy, swaggering track which defines its own rules and moves to its own beat of its drum “I never been to Mexico City but I recognise the lights/I’ve never been to Santiago but it keeps me up at night”.

With driving drums and a playful guitar riff ‘Midnight on the Hill’, is another confident, assured number from the band, with a steady and calm rhythm to it and is a track that seems to effortlessly chug along nicely at this stage of the album.  Meanwhile ‘Her Name Was Audre’ opens with a drum-solo and quickly becomes more of a familiar, fast and upbeat Maxïmo Park guitar track with its chorus finding Paul fascinated with the track-title’s protagonist “Her name was Audre and she had a lot to say/She didn’t bore me with her consummate display” while the second-half of the track sees a playful bass riff and some quite quirky keyboard and synth sounds before closing with a twist: slowly unwinding and then closing with an almost circus-like drum-roll from Tom, quite a different sound to the rest of the song.  Closing track ‘Where we’re Going’ is another guitar based track but with a much more mellow melody to it featuring some more cryptic lines from Paul “What’s appropriate in the circumstance? It’s in the sub-text/What’s appropriate in the circumstance? It’s in the sub-text.”

So overall ‘Too Much Information’ had been a somewhat of a rollercoaster ride with plenty of thrills, spills and surprises along the way.  For me this is possibly the most challenging Maxïmo Park album to-date; more heavily influenced by their electronic, synth side than any of their previous albums yet still a highly enjoyable record with plenty of tracks you will find yourself humming along and dancing to (or perhaps that was just me!)  Paul’s lyrics are often witty, cryptic and entertaining as always and again proves the case on ‘Too Much Information’, while Duncan and Archis remain on top of their game creating some memorable guitar riffs and bass melodies but perhaps Lukas has the last hurrah with many synth and keyboard driven tracks seemingly being the main focus of this album. 

‘Too Much Information’ certainly has plenty of ‘information’ going on within each track on this record and the album as a whole feels that plenty of time should be given to listen to it and to carefully nurture its tracks to fully appreciate them.  This LP is packed full of charm and delights with a few surprises along the way and a grower with repeated listens and I’m finding myself awarding this one 8 Brain Cells out of 10 for Maxïmo Park.  Also check out the Deluxe edition of the album to find a bonus CD with 5 additional tracks, covers by the band of some of their influences that have more than likely helped defined the direction of ‘Too Much Information’.  

Drinking Martinis

Track 2 ‘Brain Cells’    

Track 3 ‘Leave This Island’  

Track 4 ‘Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry’

Band website:


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Flynndie Reviews: #42 The Rifles - None the Wiser

Written 25th January 2014

The Rifles – None the Wiser

The Band: Joel Stoker (lead vocals\guitar), Luke Crowther (guitar\vocals), Rob Pyne (bass), Grant Marsh (drums)

Today’s review sees the return of Chingford’s finest, The Rifles, with this their 4th album ‘None the Wiser’.  Arriving on the scene back in 2005 the band released their excellent debut album ‘No Love Lost’ in 2006 to critical reception, a classic album packed full of massive Indie Mod-rock anthems which still sound great today.  This was later followed by 2009’s ‘The Great Escape’ another fantastic record by the band, again packed with more great and instant power-pop guitar tracks and perhaps showed even more mature song-writing than their debut album.  2011 saw the band release their 3rd album ‘Freedom Run’, another solid album to add to the band’s ever-growing back catalogue, albeit without original rhythm section Rob on bass and Grant on drums.  However, the band have now come full-circle as these two members return forming The Rifles original line up, alongside Joel and Luke of course, on this their latest offering.

None the Wiser

1.Minute Mile
2. Heebie Jeebies
3. Go Lucky
4. All I Need
5. You Win Some
6. Catch Her In The Rye
7. The Hardest Place To Find Me
8. Shoot From The Lip
9. Eclectic Eccentric
10. Under And Over

Opening with up-tempo percussion and a catchy guitar-riff at its heart, ‘Minute Mile’, a track the band has previously given early previews with on Twitter, sees them in instantly familiar territory with percussion and guitars driving the track verses along before a large sing-a-along chorus “But it’s hard to find the words to say/And it’s hard to know if you’re feeling the way that I feel/The little things you don’t realise/Are the things that let me know you could only be mine”.  The track has a confident swagger about itself and lays down a good foundation for the rest of the record.  Meanwhile ‘Heebie Jeebies’, the first song the band released from the album, is pure power-pop and a jolly romp of a track.  A more rocky and catchy affair, the lyrics are easily accessible and portray the feeling of the morning after a heavy night out “I got the Heebie Jeebies early in the morning/I got the shaky knees, the fear’s come a-calling/When I feel the blood running through my veins/Right down from my toes to my belly and brain”.  This second track is a familiar Rifles-type anthem, very much in the style of their songs from their debut album ‘No Love Lost’ and a great track to get ready to for going out at the weekend!

‘Go Lucky’ follows and sees the band initially open with a punk-rock drum-riff before featuring a very nice guitar solo.  The whole rhythm and melody to this track are very bright and up-beat, with a retro style and this is a real up-lifting, feel-good track the like of which the band have an effortless knack for writing.  Continuing with the up-lifting vibe ‘All I Need’ again is very up-beat and chirpy, featuring a nice rhythm and guitar-hook at its core accompanied by a charming harmonica throughout, the track has somewhat of a bluesy feel to it and will certainly help brighten up these cold winter days.   Fifth track ‘You Win Some’ is a more chilled and mellow sound, with a distinctly picked guitar-riff backed with organ keys and shimmering percussion flowing through it, featuring a nice poignant chorus midway through it “Yesterday is over and it won’t be back again/But there’s beauty in tomorrow if it means that I can change”.  Overall it’s a calm, relaxing track.  ‘Catch her in the Rye’ has a funky Mod guitar-riff at its heart, with steady verses before a nice bridge “Cause there’s a million things you missed at school/There’s a million and one like you” before another big chorus “So catch her she’s in the rye/And I don’t care what you do like” it’s a charming track much in the vein of ‘She’s Electric’ by Oasis with a dreamy closing to it.

  • The Rifles stormed through a set at The Forum, London back in November 
‘The Hardest Place to Find Me’ is a stripped-down acoustic track, with a hazy, summery vibe backed with tambourines while featuring a nice chorus “I took the pages of my life and then I tore that book apart/And on every single line I see the hardest place to find is in my heart”.  The acoustic, folk-like sound continues for the first-half of the track, before picking up with upbeat electric guitars and percussion during its second-half giving the song a much fuller feel.  With initially more slow-tempo verses ‘Shoot from the Lip’ is playfully nudged along with a one-two rhythm and percussion pulsing this track along with backing guitar strums and beautiful string sections in its second-half.  The verses really flirt with the listener “But nothing quite says it like a four lettered word/So we shoot from the lip with a loaded tongue”. 

With more bluesy-rock ‘Eclectic Eccentric’, a tongue-twister of a track title in itself, continues the jolly, upbeat vibe of this record and sees the harmonica make its second appearance on the album and is another foot-stomping, romper of a track with a feel-good vibe.  Album closer ‘Under and Over’ sees a picked acoustic riff and some clapped percussion, before a full-throttle chorus “Water keeps on rolling/Under and Over/Around we keeping on trying/Any which way that we can make a living”.  This a large-sounding, epic track at around 7-minutes and finishes an already strong album on a real high.

In my opinion ‘None the Wiser’ sees a band that have consistently written good albums and some great anthems with their singles, really at the top of their game!  Every track on this record is strong easy-listening, with some great melodies, tight rhythms and percussion and featuring some thought-provoking, well-written lyrics throughout.  For a band that has somewhat unfairly been labelled a ‘cult-band’ in the past, I would recommend to give this record a listen as this may finally be the time The Rifles get some well-deserved recognition and sees big things for them.  ‘None the Wiser’ is a fantastic record and I can see me having this on repeat for some time in the near future so therefore I’m going to award it 9 Heebie Jeebies out of 10 and say that The Rifles have already set the bar high for 2014!  

Go Lucky

Track 1 ‘Minute Mile’

Track 2 ‘Heebie Jeebies’   

Track 5 ‘You Win Some’

Band website: