Album Review: Maximo Park – Risk to Exist

By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Maximo Park Risk to Exist album coverThese days, it’s impossible to avoid film trailers before release day. And it’s always disappointing when you’ve enjoyed the clips presented in said film trailer and spend your money to see the full feature, only to find out the film was really nothing like the trailer at all. Hopefully this wasn’t intentional, but that’s the feeling one gets from Maximo Park’s sixth album ‘Risk to Exist’, the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Too Much Information’, which suffered a similar fate.

Both the title track and more recently revealed single ‘Get High (No I Don’t)’ showed great promise to a return to the band’s earlier days in the Noughties. We here at TGTF would never want to halt a band’s natural artistic evolution, especially for a band who has been around as long as Maximo Park have. But this LP will leave you wondering where Maximo Park go from here, especially after learning that guitarist Duncan Lloyd is embarking on his own solo career. As mentioned in my review of ‘Get High (No I Don’t)’, bassist Archis Tiku left the band early this year.

Your first clue things aren’t going to the way you expected is opening track ‘What Did We Do to You to Deserve This?’ It sounds like little Stevie Winwood is guesting on Hammond organ, giving the track a definite ‘70s feel. It’s hard to get the image out of your mind, even though Paul Smith is trying to poke fun at political leaders: “You forgot to censor yourself with your limited brain”. Shall we break out the bell bottoms? Seems that way with ‘What Equals Love’. ‘The Hero’ also follows suit with a Saturday Night Fever vibe, though it’s disorientating, as its repeated synth chord intro sounds like it was taken from a young band like Formation. Smith’s vocals and matching bouncy piano chords on ‘I’ll Be Around’ is a strangely sweet slice of pop: fine enough, but oddly annoying. For an album advertised as “an album where the political is also the personal”, it’s surprising to encounter a song so devoid of substance. Maybe it’s asking for too much?

‘Respond to the Feeling’ moves things forward a bit…into the ’80s. On ‘Work and Then Wait’, a synthesiser effect buzzes and recalls Golden Silvers, although give them credit where credit’s due: Smith’s lyrics here challenge “the old boys’ club’s been throwing its weight around”, and he’s insistent “there must be a different way” than the status quo. He bemoans that “we live in a violent age” and says “I’m trying not to disengage” with life on ‘Make What You Can’. There are those buzzy, sci-fi synth chords again, as “the future gets further away” and you have to guess what Smith is suggesting we all making, as the song leans dystopian.

Further down the tracklisting, things brighten up on ‘The Reason I Am Here’, where Smith’s yelps are seemingly as odds with the punched up guitars in the chorus. It’s one of the few standouts apart from the previously unveiled singles. You could argue it follows in the anthemic path of title track single ‘Risk to Exist’, which unfortunately gave us the initial false impression of what this LP was going to be like.

“Come for the beers, stay for the food” is a phrase used here in the States for dive bars that attract clientele on the strength of their drink deals but who can also hold their own in serving decent meals. You do begin to wonder if Maximo Park hoped the singles were strong enough to lift the rest of this album, which on the whole doesn’t sit well next to the two singles. ‘Risk to Exist’ isn’t a bad album, but you are left wondering what might have been.

6/10

Maximo Park’s sixth album ‘Risk to Exist’ is out this Friday on Daylighting / Cooking Vinyl. The Geordie band are heading out on tour in the UK next month to support this new LP. To read all of our past coverage on Maximo Park, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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