Monday, March 08, 2021

Howay The Lads, Maximo Park are back with new album Nature Always Wins

Northern lads Maximo Park are back on the scene with a few changes and a new album. The ‘Geordie boys’ were previously a quintet but with changing situations the new Nature Always Wins era sees the band going forward as a trio of Paul Smith, Duncan Lloyd and Tom English. 

The album opens with the track Partly Of My Making which has a somewhat psychedelic trip style to it. The song is filled with reverb, electric guitar, a heavy drum beat and electro elements to give it the trip like feeling. The psychedelic style is enhance with the main vocals being layered with falsetto moments that give a haunting sound to the song and almost make it feel like it’s the voices in your mind talking to you that you can hear.

Versions Of You is a ballad style love song that is seemingly about the experience of parenthood. With lyrics such as ‘watching videos of you’ and ‘but now I’m seeing in my dreams, all these versions of you’ it’s a loving depiction of the passing time in a child’s life and the ever changing versions of children as they grow and develop so quickly.  As well as being a dedication to parenthood and the part parenthood plays in their lives, it follows the journey a parent goes through as they navigate the road of being a parent. This is shown in the lyric ‘you have gifted me responsibility’ with the introduction of this new aspect of life that having a child brings but also the fact it’s looked at as a gift because although this new responsibility is scary it’s the best type of scary. The song is about the love of parenthood and also a thank you to the child for what the impact they have had in a parents life. 

The theme of parenthood is continued in the next song Baby, Sleep which depicts the reality of life as a parent; ‘my baby only sleeps when she wants to’ ‘but baby so rarely wants’ is reference to the chaos of a new baby and there sleep pattern or lack of sleep pattern. The depiction of the constant exhaustion and tiredness for parents due to the lack of sleep and rest they get when looking after a baby. The song does take a deeper turn with the lyric ‘what does the modern world mean to me’ which feels like a connection to both parenthood and the tiredness that comes with it. The depth behind the question feels like the sort of thoughts that we find ourselves drifting to when we reach heavy tiredness and our body drifts into a vulnerable and sleep deprived state and it takes our mind to the great meaning of life. But these deep thoughts also become more common when reaching parenthood because there is an increased awareness of the world when it’s not just a place we live but our children have to live as well and this heightened awareness is evident in the song. 

The album then sees a glimpse of the indie rock roots that the Maximo Park of the past are recognised for with Placeholder. The song is simple in its ways of just being a top class song; it’s made for the live stage that fans and artists alike crave. The upbeat tempo and the addictive drum beat allow the listener to picture themselves at the live setting with the music heavy and loud and flowing through them; it is quite simply a feel good top quality song from Maximo Park. 

The album then flows back into the parenthood style with my personal favourite song of the album - All Of Me. The song is again for and about the members children; it’s a song about the influence parenthood has had on them. With lyrics such as ‘I was lost until you came along’ and ‘you taught me what is it to care’ we see the vulnerability of parenthood and how it unlocks a whole new side to people they didn’t know they had and that children possess this incredible power they don’t even understand. All Of Me is a connection between parent and child, of the relationship and the bond that has been built and will continue to build through their respective lifetimes. The song is an open letter by saying things such as ‘I’ve been collecting perspectives there’s so much that I want to share’, there’s an excitement of what’s to come and how all throughout life you go along learning and growing and never really knowing what to do with the things you’ve learnt, then you become a parent and finally you’ve got someone to share your wisdom with and to use what you know to guide them, you give yourself to them completely to help them and support them in their life. 

Ardour has the rock style sound to it filled with drums and guitar it has an understated intensity to it which seems fitting for the title. Ardour is to have a great enthusiasm or passion, usually in terms of love; and the song has this feeling of enthusiastic joy in its sound but it’s not heavy or in your face and instead of being an in your face I love you, it’s a deeper feeling that’s almost stronger in it’s more subtle approach, which feels like the embodiment of what ardour means. The song feels like it’s a message about the intensity of love and the craziness of life and love, ‘it’s easier said than done’ feels like a motto for life and how things can be so different and change so much that it’s almost incomprehensible, but despite everything the ardour we experience in life makes all the craziness worthwhile. 

The album then moves on to Meeting Up with its electronic and synth style sound. The sound is perhaps slightly different than what people might expect from the band as it shows the maturity and development of their sound and as a result there’s a fear that people won’t give the song a chance ; but it’s a track that needs to be heard because it gets under your skin, it induces feelings in you even if you don’t quite know what the feelings are.

Why Must A Building Burn has a more punk and rock style feel to it in both sound and meaning. It’s a song with a message, ‘why must a building burn, before a lesson is learned’, ‘why must a building burn, before the powerful learn’; it has the makings of a generational anthem, it makes a point about the desolate state of how no one ever takes note of problems until they’ve gotten far to out of hand. Although there is the bleak message, the song is also one of empowerment because it makes you sit up and take note; it leaves listeners with a renewed energy that leads to the thoughts of why do these things happen, how can we change the dismal situation and how can I be a part of a better future, how can I stop more buildings from burning? 

From the energy of empowerment, to the energy of a live show, ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing’ is up next and it’s a song that screams play me live, play me to rooms full of people. It has a sound that feels like the older Maximo Park sound which will appeal to new and old fans alike. Newer fans can embrace the song as great music and for the older fans they can embrace the somewhat nostalgia of the Maximo Park sound they’ve known in the past. The song elicits feelings of being in a room full of people surrounded by people just like yourself who are all there to have a good time, jumping and moving to the beat of the song and just letting go. 

Maximo Park have produced a few potential anthems on this album one of which being The Acid Remark it feels like it will become a reference point song for the band, it’s a song that people will go to when talking about the band. With its Brit pop style sound that is so well loved for any listener, it has a comfort of familiarity and then with the added extra of reggae style sounds at the end, it’s a song that you can’t help but love. At its core, the song is a top quality song, it makes for easy listening with its ability to get into your mind, body and soul; it makes you feel something, it makes you feel good and for just a moment nothing else matters but you and the music it’s an escape style song where you can forget the world for a while and just let yourself be alone with the music. 

The penultimate number on the album is 4 and a half minutes of feelings in every sense of the word and sound with Feelings I’m Suppose To Feel. The theme of parenthood returns and brings with it a rush of emotion for the band and the fans. The song has a mixture of lyrics that are sung and spoken, with the spoken word becoming more frequent as the song progresses and it feels like the emotions of the song begin to merge with reality and by the end it’s less so a story in a song and just simply the spoken words of a parent. There is a repetition of ‘tiny voice’ through the song with the lyrics ‘your tiny voice makes me dewy eyed’ and ‘your tiny voice filters through and I never knew that could be so strong’; the use of tiny voice emphasise the impact of the feelings and how this tiny little being can have such a big and profound impact on a person. There’s this raw emotion of the way that parenthood has just consumed every part of a person and the reality of love and feelings becomes so evident with the spoken lyric and the feeling of realisation of this ‘tiny voice’ and the impact they’ve had. 

The album closes with Child Of The Flatlands it’s the longest track on the album at 5 minutes 16 seconds but it’s a song about impact and meaning. The song is a slower ballad and the music feels less of a focus and more of a support for the lyrics and the message behind them. It’s a song about the desolation and devastation of the world of the past and the losses that we see( ‘the libraries are closing down now, where will the random folds go when they feel alone’ and ‘the old world is clinging to the coattails’ it’s a bleak depiction of the modern world but the fact that it is a true depiction is perhaps the bleakest part of all. 

There is the heartbreaking realisation that the modern world is seemingly trying to wipe out the past and wipe out everything that has come before it as if it never existed. However, there is some light in the dark with the lyric ‘nature always wins, makes itself known’ there is a hopefulness that even if this ever increasing industrialised world that seems hell bent on destroying the past; there is still a chance that the simpler joys of the past won’t be fully lost and that nature is more powerful than us all and will find a way to prevail in some form and that maybe just maybe the future isn’t so bleak after all. 

Nature Always Wins sees Maximo Park debuting an array of sounds that shows both their progression as a band with something different than what we are used to; and also the sounds that are reminiscent of the Maximo Park that fans know and love. The album is a great listen for fans old and new with its poignancy and message in the lyrics;  and it’s first class sound, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

- Georgina Shine


Image: Official Album Artwork

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