Maximo Park
Our Earthly Pleasures


4.5
superb

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
April 2nd, 2007 | 29 replies | 11,136 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Our Earthly Pleasures is a dense record; twelve tracks clock in at little more than forty-one minutes, but it’s a shattering listen from start to finish

There’s something genuinely beautiful about Geordies singing in harmony. Maybe it’s the novelty factor, the once-in-a-lifetime meeting on Tyneside of two people capable of holding a tune, I don’t know. It works, don’t overthink it.

Yet it’s hard to put a check excessive thinking when faced with Our Earthly Pleasures, the follow-up to Maximo Park’s acclaimed 2005 debut A Certain Trigger. Our Earthly Pleasures, in contrast to the water-tight radio punk of its predecessor, overflows with ideas, even if it’s to the detriment of the material. Lead single ‘Our Velocity’ is the album in a microcosm, almost an exercise in condensing as many themes onto the side of a 7” disc. Fronting with hypnotic ‘Baba O’Riley’-style keyboards, it’s as intense and technically impressive as pop singles come, shifting tempo constantly and taking in furious four-part rhythmic flourishes as frontman Paul Smith vocalises with increasing irritation, ”love is a lie, which means I’ve been lied to / love is a lie, which means I’ve been lying too.”

Sporting a new-found flair for grandiosity, the band have grabbed their second album by the balls, doing away with the perennially ditched-after-the-first-record producer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, The Futureheads) and drafting Gil Norton, he of Pixies and, more recently, Feeder and Jimmy Eat World fame. Norton’s clean, liberating production coaxes out the stadium rock beast from Maximo Park Zoo, substituting A Certain Trigger’s messy garage rock for bigger choruses, crunchy, precise guitars and exuberant keyboard passages more suited to a modern prog rock group than a bunch of jangly-popsters from England. They’ve fought back against those who unfairly branded them an inferior Futureheads clone, rolling back the predominant Smiths/Morrissey/Marr influence of their debut, or at least personalising it better, re-surfacing only for the ‘This Charming Man’-influenced ‘Books from Boxes.’

All twelve tracks, in one way or another, are dominated by Smith’s current state of mind, as he documents the end of a long-decaying relationship, thankfully in no particular order (that’d be a bit cheesy, really). The lyrics deal almost exclusively with the subject, drawing almost McCartney-like inspiration from even the most banal subjects (traffic patterns among them) to illustrate the strange and often conflicting emotions brought about by the break-up. The aforementioned ‘Books from Boxes’ shows the feelings of emptiness brought on by a loved one, or a never-loved one, leaving for good, with the lines: ”You spent the evening unpacking books from boxes / You passed me up so as not to break a promise / Scattered polaroids and sprinkled words around your collar in the long run said you knew that this would happen.”

Morrissey-like, Smith manages to casually slip dozens of one-liners into his prose-like compositions, criticising his lover for the meaningless of her gestures with the lines, “I feel the weight upon your kiss ambiguous,” from ‘Books from Boxes,’ and "empty words so free of connotations- all dreams come to an end" from the baroque Rufus Wainwright-like ballad ‘Your Urge.’ ‘Russian Literature’ rivals ‘Our Velocity’ in the tension stakes, with the band amping up via barrelhouse piano as Smith goes into philosophical mode, musing on the sex-but-no-feeling relationship with the remark, “our earthly pleasures distract us against our will,” and adding sarcastically, “are you hopeful or are you just gullible?” He saves the best for last, on why the relationship can’t work, stating plainly “I can’t live my life feeling nervous about tomorrow.”

Following Smith’s lead, the music is just as uncertain as the emotions expressed in the lyrics. Opener ‘Girls Who Play Guitars,’ ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘By the Monument’ leap from extreme to extreme, shifting tempo at will and sometimes brutally dynamic. ‘Russian Literature’ begins with softly, softly piano and gradually winds and unwinds itself before exploding at the finish, also like the meaningful/meaningless sex it describes. Our Earthly Pleasures is a dense record; twelve tracks clock in at little more than forty-one minutes, but it’s a shattering listen from start to finish, an emotional rollercoaster as much as it is a depressing tale of a rather sad bloke. It’s ironic, then, that the best and most touching track on the entire disc is ‘Books from Boxes,’ the Smiths-like jangle-pop number that for once dispenses with the tidal wave of, well, everything that makes ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Russian Literature’ so thrilling.

With a couple more moments like ‘Books from Boxes’ and perhaps a track or two trimmed off (‘Karaoke Plays’ has to be a candidate), Our Earthly Pleasures would be pushing for classic certification, but for now it’ll have to be content to be a marked improvement upon A Certain Trigger.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
trustxdialect
April 2nd 2007



1502 Comments


I played 'Books from Boxes' while reading this and I kept getting side-tracked listening to it. Fucking fantastic. Great review as usual. You always manage to describe an album well even when you only bring up a few select tracks.

I will definitely be checking this out.


oh ok awesome This Message Edited On 04.02.07

Jom
Staff Reviewer
April 2nd 2007



2667 Comments


Who?
EDIT: oh I see indie pop no wonder I bet they're from Europe too

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 2nd 2007



15732 Comments


one more till century, congrats.

RandyfromPennywise
April 3rd 2007



752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So I've never heard of these guys. Australia's interesting, we're kind of half-British, half-US. Like we get Bloc Party, but we also get Creed :upset:. I'm going to download this shortly.

Where do you get the time to write so many reviews of a decent quality? Are you going to work in music in the future? Or failing that, make music for a living? Coz you put in some serious effort to not do one of those.

Should I not show my face around here for a while? I thought you were talking about Death Cab For Cutie when you referred to 'This Charming Man' :eek:. Indie noob.

Abaddon2005
April 3rd 2007



684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The production on those two tracks is pretty crappy, but it does fit the music in its own way.

samthebassman
April 3rd 2007



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I found this album disappointing, a couple of high points but not my cup of tea.

RandyfromPennywise
April 3rd 2007



752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Downloaded this this morning, and the other album of theirs. Sounds good from first listen. You may be pleased to know that I have just finished downloading all the singles from The Smiths, a band I have never heard before.

But yeah am impressed with this, Our Velocity is a good song; the first few tracks appear very strong so this bodes well for a good album. I'll report back later with a rating. Books From Boxes is cool too.

Abaddon2005
April 4th 2007



684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Why do you say that?


The guitars sound muddy, and that little keyboard melody in 'Books from Boxes' is pretty far back in the mix, little things like that. But like I said, it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me wonder what it would sound like if the production was really polished.
This Message Edited On 04.04.07

RandyfromPennywise
April 5th 2007



752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^ There you go. Could go up to a 4 though, this is quite cool.

RandyfromPennywise
April 5th 2007



752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I have been going through my album ratings just now. The system is hard to do accurately. There is like a 4.8 rating that needs to exist because I've got so many albums at 4.5 which I don't rate all equally, I'm sure you're the same.

On this, yeah the first three tracks offer up a really great opening to the album. Really strong first quarter. The rest is good but not as good. Also, it's interesting reaading a review of something you've never heard, then reading it again after you've heard it. That's what I did with this. Apart from saying "good review", I can now say that it feels like you really 'understood' this album if you get what I mean. And the review was a perfect length in my opinion. Maybe that's just because I am lazy and don't like reading 2000+ word reviews, but for me this is the ideal length for a review - enough words to say everything needed and short enough to read in a few minutes. Like a good skirt, short enough to maintain interest but long enough to cover the essentials.

trustxdialect
April 5th 2007



1502 Comments


I don't know how to rate this. 4 seems too low and 4.5 seems too high. I might just stick it with a 4.5 and call it a day, but it's times like these that I wish we followed Pitchfork's 10 spot scale, decimals included.

That being said, if Maximo Park and Architecture in Helsinki were mathletes, MP would win.

Abaddon2005
April 6th 2007



684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This record was much better than I expected. Also the actual recording sounds a lot better than the stream, I guess that's just low quality. But yes, 4/4.5, unexpectedly.This Message Edited On 04.06.07

trustxdialect
April 6th 2007



1502 Comments


A very strong 4. I can't get enough of Girls Who Play Guitars/Books From Boxes/Russian Literature.

So good. I could see this getting high up there. I even had a slightly crazy moment where I pictured myself giving this a 5. Of course, this is while I was listening to Books From Boxes and damn it's so good.

ValiumMan
April 6th 2007



493 Comments


I don't like these guys. They have too much of this stick-up-your-ass hipster "coolness" that most of those British New Wave revivalists seem to have for my tastes.
Excellent review though.

2muchket!
April 7th 2007



900 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

There not all geordies in this band !!

Paul Smith there lead singer is from Billingham and is therefore a Smoggie (aka teessider).

But yeah I've only heard Our Velocity and I loved it almost as much as I liked a certain trigger.

TheTastyLettuce
April 24th 2007



130 Comments


I'm liking the sound of this album....not usually my style of music, but it's growing on me...
You can hear the influence of Johnny Marr in a couple of the tracks, it's good stuff....and for an indie rock/pop act, I actually enjoy the vocals and the lyrics are not half bad either...



RandyfromPennywise
April 25th 2007



752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

These guys are coming to my city in August, I may just go. And if I do you can thank yourself Mr Plath for giving Maximo Park the $2 they'll get out of the $48. If you never wrote this review I probably wouldn't have downloaded their albums. And by the way, this album gets better the more I listen to it, Books From Boxes and Our Velocity are just awesome, awesome songs. This Message Edited On 04.25.07

mr2hard
April 26th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I've a recommend for you guys: Take the "Missing Songs", released latest year that includes demo versions of Maximo Park's 'classics' and a bunch of pretty good tracks. BECAUSE this new album is very poor one. I don't recommend it at all.

TheStarclassicTreatment
May 8th 2007



2910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Absolutely amazing live. And a very good album to boot.This Message Edited On 11.21.07

JohnXDoesn't
May 12th 2007



1267 Comments


nice review, fantastic album



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