Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 92)
If you have any familiarity with the post-punk revival bands I’ve written about so far - be it Bloc Party, the Futureheads, or the Kaiser Chiefs - Maximo Park’s debut album A Certain Trigger
will fly right through your ears on first listen. There’s nothing here that’s going to capture the attention of the informed. The guitars? Angular. The singer? Carnival barker. The drums? Punchy. The songs? Short. The influence? Gang of Four. The producer? Paul Epworth. It’s a damn shame A Certain Trigger
didn’t pop up in 2004 because it’s a sneaky great record, one that needs a few spins to shake off the been-there-done-that to reveal its eager pleasures.
Maximo Park’s signature song though, needs no such excuses. For a little more than a minute, “Apply Some Pressure” is simply a distinctly above average rock song. It zooms along on a wire tight band backing up Paul Smith’s words, which are clever without cutting you out of the fun. “You know that I would love to see you next year/I hope that I am still alive next year”, Smith yelps, “I testify to having guilty feelings/I must confess I'd like to be caught stealing”. It’s good but after the second chorus, it becomes great. The band suddenly cuts the song on a dime and before you know what happened, you’re dropped into the titular refrain and the song’s biggest hook. Then, just when you’ve about got your bearings back, “Apply Some Pressure” charges into its central refrain, an overwhelmingly galvanic “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again.” delivered as if being out on your ass without a dollar to your name is the greatest thing that can happen to someone. That refrain is built up so high and so quick that when Maximo Park send it crashing down back into the first verse again it’s the best its ever sounded.
Like most of their peers, Maximo Park look to Gang of Four’s immortal Entertainment!
for its perfect pop songs rather than its politics. That is to say, Maximo Park do more with less, taking little melodies and refrains and threading them through the folds of your brain. Opener “Signal and Sign” will do cartwheels through your skull with it’s huge “Lies! Lies! Lies-lies! Lies!” hooks. “The Coast is Always Changing” sports what might be the album’s best chorus while “Going Missing” features big blooming guitars that have more in common with 70’s power-pop than post-punk and a real knockout of a closing lyric. In fact, the lyric booklet is almost universally strong throughout A Certain Trigger
. Duncan Lloyd’s words are always clever but never in love with themselves or forsaking emotional directness for an aloof cool. “I’ll admit that there’s a web but it wasn’t me who spun it” insists Smith on “Postcard of a Painting”, “I wrote my feelings down in a rush, I didn’t even check the spelling.”
A Certain Trigger
is a strange kind of grower. Unlike most albums characterized as “growers” - 18 minute psych goth jazz odysseys and whatnot - you can listen to A Certain Trigger
and get it, understand where all the hooks and melodies are, but not be gripped by it. This is partially the fault of the singer pulling his third shift after he got done with The Futureheads and the Kaiser Chiefs (I swear to god it’s all the same guy) or Paul Epworth’s production feeling a little too familiar but by your third listen you’ll be off the wall with pop joy. By 2005 “The New Rock Revolution” was already bleeding from a Razorlight shaped hole in its chest but Maximo Park proved there was still a little life left in its bones.