Review Summary: While not quite awash with risk, the existence of this band still gives plenty of cause for cheer.
Maximo Park succeed, first and foremost, because of their strong sense of identity. The mid-2000s in Britain saw a seeming production line of identikit, pseudo-awkward, jagged and angular indie bands, most of whom rode the hype train as far as the end of one or (in rarer cases) two album cycles, usually being hyperbolically lavished with the ‘this band is so important’ tag, before disappearing into anonymity. Park themselves have always quietly risen above this trope without blowing their own trumpet or turning too
many heads at once, as their seeming refusal to stray into the limelight has enabled them to consistently perform and produce great material without the glaring lights of an increasingly redundant and unwelcoming Top 40 to prove a distraction. In Paul Smith, they have an ace in the sleeve, a working-class hero in the vocal mould of Cocker and Albarn, keen to play to his own strengths rather than rely on the clichés of others. So 10 years after the release of acclaimed sophomore effort Our Earthly Pleasures
, is it more of the same, or have the band adopted an evolve-or-die attitude"
The pop sensibilities are still front and centre, and the jutting, reverb heavy riffing bulks out the record and punches unpredictably atop warm disco-esque percussion, with quirky organs and synths creating a fuzzy but inviting overall aesthetic. So far so good, and if the band tickle your fancy just from the pleasantness of their sound, then Risk To Exist
will tick the same boxes the last decade of work has, even if they don’t take any real… well, risks or sidesteps in their presentation. The interesting dilemma that this album poses is that where it takes on a much more political leaning than previous entries in the band’s discography, does the bouncing, carefree, dance-friendly sound of Maximo Park inherently weaken any idea of protest or revolt" Is the idea of disappointment and rage at the government not more suited to a band with a bit more bite" Or could it be that the idea of this record is in the discussion rather than the resolution" Smith and co. would argue the latter, having been quoted recently as saying ‘it’s good to question the world we live in’ – which might seem a little pithy and empty at first glance but it remains an important point, particularly in an apparently disillusioned and disjointed Britain. This, however, is a discussion for another forum – what we can take away from Risk To Exist
is that Maximo Park are not happy with the world at large, but are happy to express themselves through a more positive unity rather than upping the punk aesthetic, and this sound suits them well. So while it is not unfair to note that some of the allegory and metaphor can be a little messy, sometimes a little blunt and unglamorous, Maximo Park have created another highly enjoyable, fun record, with just a touch more satire and sting in light of confrontational political times.