Maxïmo Park – The National Health (2012)
In truth, my comprehension of the all myriad complexities of music is rather limited. That is to say I’m no composer, with no classical training, no real knowledge of production. I listen to music and judge purely on what I can get from it. If it’s the lyrics, excellent – words are beautiful. Songwriting is indelibly poetic and personal, fascinating insights into the spectrum of emotion and thought and feeling. If it’s a particular sonic drone or electric squeal or whatever, fantastic – noises are also good. I can’t play like Hendrix or think like Tchaikovsky, but I humbly think a wailing guitar solo and an orchestra of interwoven mastery are comparably scintillating. Whatever music does, if it makes images in my head, makes me nostalgic or expectant, miserable or manic, the outcome is probably affection. What I’m trying to say, in an incredibly convoluted way, is that my approach to music is probably exactly the same as everybody else’s. I may not necessarily understand it, but I sure as hell know how I feel about it.
Yet I’d contend that, like everyone, my perspectives are almost certainly influenced by elements of regionalism; I protect and celebrate what I know, as we all feel a certain unflinching connection for the music that stems from our home. Bands and artists are more than icons and idols; they come from the same place that you do. They play music steeped with an identity common to yours. As a northern boy, my heart is in the Newcastle docks and the Northumbrian coast. To those who sing in my dialect and serenade my city, I am perhaps a little too fervently patriotic.
The reason I say all this is that I’m about to conclude this review by absolutely demanding you buy this album, and I want to be clear that this extends far beyond homeland devotion.
I first heard Maxïmo Park at a house party when I was fifteen, and was converted. The truly enigmatic Paul Smith writes lyrics which incite footloose dancing and soundtrack solemn sobriety. The music is complex and distinct with tracks equally charismatic, brash, desperate and poignant. The band has never shown anything less than full hearts on sleeves, and always roared it in a native tongue.
There’s nothing in their fourth record, The National Health, which will change my adoration. With standout track and leading single ‘Hips and Lips’, Maxïmo create the same seductive sonic escapades and entwined threads of lyrics that got you howling and dancing to ‘A Certain Trigger’. ‘The National Health’ and ‘Write this Down’ pulsate and clatter as intelligently and energetically as ‘Graffiti’ and ’Our Velocity’. The balladry and romantic heights reached on ‘The Undercurrents’ rivals ‘Books from Boxes’ for nuanced heartbreak; an earnest “I won’t forget the, the way you forgave me” is shatteringly stunning. Disregard any favouritism; this record is blissful and blistering.
Buy this album. It’ll break your heart and make you dance to forget it.