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’

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