Maximo Park Biography
“It sounds,” grins Paul Smith, on Maximo Park’s glorious second album, Our Earthly Pleasures, “like Smashing Pumpkins crossed with The Smiths.”
Smashing Pumpkins and The Smiths is some hybrid mix, but then Maximo Park never were a band to be constricted by limitations.
“And it’s definitely heavier than our first,” he continues. “We’re very proud of our first album, but we didn't want to do that again.”
And so the band brought in Foo Fighters and Pixies producer Gil Norton, and it is Norton that has helped Newcastle’s finest musical export become even more taut and muscular, and even more thrilling a proposition than they were the first time around. Let’s not pull any punches here: with Our Earthly Pleasures, Maximo Park have come gloriously of age.
“This is us moving on and moving up,” Paul says.
Welcome, then, to Maximo Park’s ample second phase. Even back in the early days of 2005, when they released their debut album, A Certain Trigger, this quintet from north-east England were an unusually intriguing band, more angular, more erudite than any of their immediately obvious peers, their songs so tightly coiled that when they let them loose, especially onstage, the singer often looked close to imploding.
A Certain Trigger was an immediate success, notching up four Top 20 singles (Apply Some Pressure, Going Missing, Graffiti), selling over 500,000 copies, and bagging a Mercury nomination along the way. They were invited to play all over the world and they went, wowing new audiences with performances that became increasingly notable for their sheer energy and verve.
“I think we've excelled as a live band whether it was in front of 100,000 Rolling Stones fans or in more intimate venues,” says Smith, before listing less obvious destinations such as Moscow and Beijing.
This is down in no small part to Smith and keyboardist Lukas Wooller, men who feel the music in the manner of one whose wet fingertips have somehow found themselves plugged into the mains. While many have compared their epileptic fidgets to David Byrne or a speeded-up Michael Stipe, Smith likes to align them more with Iggy Pop. There are reasons for this.
“I watched a South Bank Show on him where he explained how he really gives everything and more of himself to every performance, so much so that he’s exhausted, sapped of all energy, afterwards. We’re exactly like that as well.” At this moment, Smith hints that there is still enough energy around after a show to inspire moments of mischievousness. “I’ve often gone out into the night after a gig to go and find out just what life is all about,” he laughs. “The album’s title, Our Earthly Pleasures, is partly justified by some of the darker desires that people indulge in,” but as Smith adds, “our songwriting is all about capturing a particular moment, sustaining that period of thought and fully exploring the feeling, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.”
Formed in Newcastle in 2001, Maximo Park came together as we now know them at the very point when founding members Duncan Lloyd (guitarist), Archis Tiku (bassist), Tom English (drummer) and aforementioned keyboardist Lukas Wooller were still finding their feet. They had hit a wall when bassist Tiku decided he had no desire to be a lead vocalist and the search for a front-person began.
Fate conspired to place Smith alongside Tom English’s then girlfriend in a nightclub where he was singing along to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ in one of his trademark, second-hand suits. Despite never having sung properly, Smith was recommended to the band, and after only one rehearsal the band realised they had a great front man, with the requisite look, energy and focus to drive the band forward. On top of that, he could really sing.
“Before Maximo Park, I was in an instrumental post-rock band. I never had any real desire to sing because I didn’t have anything particularly original to say.” Smith adds, “I’ve always been of the opinion that a front man *should* have something to say, or shut up altogether.”
But his reticence for the limelight quickly retreated as Maximo Park immediately clicked, Smith now polarising the collective vision of the original members. As well as contributing to the writing of some cracking, memorable pop songs, he afforded them perhaps the most distinctive look in modern rock. For the band’s first photo shoot, he decided to complement his suit with a 1920s-style side-parting, largely because he wanted to look “individual; I wanted to stand out.” He certainly did that, and before long people were suggesting that where once Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker strode, now Paul Smith was striding too.
“It’s nice to inspire devotion in people, not least because we put so much effort into the songs,” says a humble Smith.
Our Earthly Pleasures is the latest result of all that effort. This is an album that has vigor and attitude. The songs are sharp, clever, addictive, and they sound fantastic played loud. After two years of live experience, the result is a tightly knit, collaborative display of powerful musicianship lightened by Maximo Park’s familiar brand of catchy song structures. Tom English and Archis Tiku have added more adventurous rhythmic touches to the sheer energy of the band’s playing. Lukas Wooller’s dramatic piano on a song like Russian Literature recalls the drama of his stage performance, whilst guitarist Duncan Lloyd’s deft interplay between rhythmic and melodic flourishes is one of the album’s main hallmarks.
The melancholic side of the band underpins the new album, rising to the fore on Books From Boxes, where Smith’s subtle lyric intertwines with Lloyd’s winding guitar line; another example of the band’s collaborative ability to arrange a song to maximum emotional effect.
First single Our Velocity is a broadly political song about somebody fighting for their country and wondering just how they found themselves in such a godforsaken position in the first place.
“It's about ending up stranded and questioning just what is going on with your life at the moment you realise you have run out of people to talk to,” the singer explains.
Girls Who Play Guitars, meanwhile, is a “non-judgmental song about the kind of girl who likes to go out and have a good time without feeling guilty afterwards. It's about being human, and being alive.” And Nosebleed, concerns “becoming impervious to all those people who find it necessary to talk about you behind your back, but not having to justify who you are,” which is apt, he continues, “because I've never had to.”
The rest of the songs cover more tangential, engrossing and worldly themes, but we'll let you discover those for yourselves. As a whole, Our Earthly Pleasures is a record full of sin and seduction, and will undoubtedly be one of the defining albums of 2007.
Phase Two of Maximo Park's now blossoming career starts here.
Thanks to Harry Barnes for submitting the biography.
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Breath Taking | Reviewer: nina | 7/11/2007
Audibly Stunning. Lyrically mind blowing. Actaully perfect.
you cannot fault this band. They ARE music right now.
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Supeb | Reviewer: Anonymous | 9/30/2006
I really love the band Maximo Park, their stuff is so relateable, not one of my friends have heard of them so i feel they're kind of underground and i like the fact im branded different cuz i love them.... they are excellnt live. seen em twice in kildare and limerick!!!!!
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Fantastic! | Reviewer: Dustin | 8/8/2005
Maximo Park is an outstanding band...why they aren't huge in the states yet is beyond me. The song "Going Missing" is my anthem right now...do yourselves a favor and buy their album NOW!
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