Maximo Park
The National Health


3.5
great

Review

by Joseph Viney STAFF
June 12th, 2012 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In rude health or a terminal case? Maxïmo Park seek to diagnose a nation's problems on their fourth album

Maxïmo Park’s arrival in 2005 with A Certain Trigger saw them thrown straight into a market already saturated with quirky British guitar groups. However, Darwinism applies in music as much as it does in the wild, and their infectious, literate and just straight-up solid tunes stood them in good stead, isolating them from the rest of their dunderheaded contemporaries. The group’s odes to suburban drudgery, complicated romance and war and peace spoke directly to many. The good work continued with 2007’s Our Earthly Pleasures, a more refined version of what had come before. If they followed up with one more great record, their momentum could have been unstoppable. Instead, what followed was the lacklustre Quicken The Heart. Aside from the jumpy single “The Kids Are Sick Again”, the album saw the group devolve their sound into a more forgettable affair. Maxïmo Park had lost their bite, the common touch that gained them critical plaudits and a dedicated following.

Perhaps sensing this, vocalist Paul Smith seemed determined to make The National Health an album that would delve right into the heart of matters. "We're in a global recession and everyone is being bombarded with bouncy, happy music,” he said in an interview. “The nation is out of control and the record is about taking back control, and being a force for change in your own life. It can't speak for everybody but it has its eyes and ears all around us. That's always been a Maxïmo Park thing: look at yourself."

For all of his bluster however, Smith appears reluctant from the off to commit himself. “Do I really need to give an introduction? Must the artist bleed over the new production?” is the album’s opening couplet and one begins to wonder if he can back up his words with action.

…and yet, the album’s title track that comes immediately after is a frenetic affair. “England is ill and it is not alone” bellows Smith with a passion not heard since their debut record. Lead single “Hips and Lips” is perhaps the culmination of what Maxïmo Park have been trying to do since day one; passionate lyrics, neat synth stabs and a chorus that makes the heart race. It is the album’s standout track and could be the catalyst of something great at their live shows. All of the album’s high points coincide with the more fast-paced numbers. “Banlieue” is imbued with a dark and menacing streak, “Until The Earth Would Open” is everything you would come to expect from a Maxïmo Park song and album closer “Waves Of Fear” is a joyous song with a satisfying crunch underpinning everything.

Unfortunately there are times when The National Health slides into a less palatable groove. “Take Me Home” is an anonymous by-the-numbers track, “Reluctant Love” suffers much the same fate and “Unfamiliar Places” is completely overshadowed by the fact that it’s followed by “Waves Of Fear.” The album also suffers from dipping into well-worn tropes and retreads characteristic of the group. Although Smith states a preference for writing about the ever-enigmatic ‘bigger picture’, his lyrics have a penchant for being immature. “Write This Down” opens with the line “You said you wanted someone just like me/You let me read it in your diary.” Not long after he regales us with how he spent “the summer kissing in a basement room.” It sounds like something a man of 33 should not be singing about anymore. It can sound puerile, pubescent and bordering on parody.

Despite this, and for all of his decrying of “bouncy, happy music”, Smith and the rest of Maxïmo Park have created a record that should put even the slightest hint of a smile on your face. They might always struggle to recapture the spark that drove their first two albums, but The National Health might just be what the doctor ordered.



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user ratings (24)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
MeatSalad
June 11th 2012


14720 Comments


How has this band not died yet?

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Knott-
Emeritus
June 11th 2012


10198 Comments


because they're actually good

MeatSalad
June 11th 2012


14720 Comments


I digged a certain trigger back in the day, but I thought this band died off with the rest of that indie rock explosion back in 06/07

Knott-
Emeritus
June 11th 2012


10198 Comments


i really liked quicken the heart

tommygun
June 11th 2012


24989 Comments


Is there anything on this as good as 'Books From Boxes'?

JViney
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2012


322 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think "Hips and Lips" is one of their best personally.

Knott-
Emeritus
June 11th 2012


10198 Comments


first 3 songs rule

i really fucking like this band

Knott-
Emeritus
June 11th 2012


10198 Comments


i wish the arctic monkeys hadnt turned into twats they might sound a bit like this

tommygun
June 11th 2012


24989 Comments


Agreed I didn't dig Humbug or Suck It much, but I like the heavy riffing style on 'R U Mine?'. Hopefully they keep going with that sort of thing

SeaAnemone
June 11th 2012


20559 Comments


Our Earthly Pleasures was such a favorite of mine way back in the day so I feel like I owe this a listen

Digging: Dirty Beaches - Stateless

bloc
June 11th 2012


34927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really looking forward to listening to this. Used to listen to A Certain Trigger all the time and then stopped. It's only until I heard Maximo was coming out with a new album that I started to check their other albums out.

PuddlesPuddles
June 12th 2012


4786 Comments


"We're in a global recession and everyone is being bombarded with bouncy, happy music"

I was just thinking the same thing the other day. Because things are so bad, everyone is afraid to
actually acknowledge it, or feel it's all above them. They'd rather shut it off and listen to fun. and
fucking Sleigh Bells and Japandroids and Deadmau5 and whoever else has the image of not taking anything
seriously. It's pretty much the equivalent to taking pills.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2012


7363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, I more or less agree. I don't think the high points are as good as on their first two records, but I think this is definitely their most consistent yet.

I thought about seeing them at a local comeback show a few weeks ago. Kinda regretting not going now.

VheissuCrisis
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2012


996 Comments


I kind of liked Our Earthly Pleasures, so I might check this out.

Funeralopolis
June 12th 2012


11612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i am liking this album so far

Digging: Black Milk - If There's a Hell Below

Hep Kat
June 13th 2012


15351 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is the first album i've listened to from these guys since their debut. it's pretty decent

BigPleb
June 14th 2012


37247 Comments


Apply Some Pressure is the only song I've really digged by these guys.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins on Io

Funeralopolis
June 15th 2012


11612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

really catchy music but nothing new here

bloc
June 16th 2012


34927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Please, I've been waiting for something like this since that last Two Door album.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 16th 2012


7363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Saw these guys do 3 record store gigs today. New stuff was excellent.



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