By Maximo Park
I had the privilege of meeting singer Paul Smith at a small record store in Durham way before 'Apply Some Pressure' had propelled them to Radio One stardom - way before the fabulous Jo Whiley had jumped on the indie bandwagon. The conversation was brief but his charisma, boyish grin and red baseball cap won my unequivocal affection. More importantly, the music was great. His personality shone through each of their singles and the album, excluding the horrible 'Acrobat', was the breakthrough of 2005. Being a respectable indie boy, I had to dismiss my feelings once the mainstream got a hold of him-but that didn't stop me eagerly awaiting their second album. And yes, having now heard it, I can confirm that stardom has not obliterated the man that made Maximo Park Maximo Park. He's hardly changed at all and Our Earthly Pleasures picks up exactly where it left off: vibrant, go-lucky indie-pop.
The opening track 'Girls Who Play Guitars' is a testament to the band's steadfast commitment to perfectly crafted pop tunes. It features a touch of synth (which, thankfully, is not over-used on the album), snappy guitars and a minimalist drum beat. There's also a hint of a more sinister side to Maximo Park. Paul Smith sings, 'You could pretend and I wouldn't know, I could be who you wanted in the dark'. The second song and first single from the album, 'Our Velocity', is a track of immense power and focus. It's crammed with clever interludes, oh-so-satisfying guitar licks and a possible reference the ills of stock broking. Furthermore, the lyrics 'I've got no one to call in the middle of the night anymore' add a surprisingly emotional twist about a girl that was loved and lost. The third track 'Books From Boxes' has been a talking point since the lyrics were mysteriously posted on the band's MySpace page in the comment section-and it's well worth the hype. Much slower than the first two, it adds a change of pace that was arguably missing from the first album. Other immediate highlights include the obvious single-in-waiting, 'Russian Literature', as well as the controlled emotional aggro of 'By The Monument'. Both tracks are delivered with fantastic precision and feature an added depth that owes much to the influence of producer Gil Norton.
Far from losing the edge as Our Earthly Pleasures climaxes, Maximo Park show their metal: in 'A Fortnight's Time', Paul Smith manages the impossible by rhyming the words "hypothetical", "alphabetical", "theoretical" and "dialectical", while 'Sandblasted And Set Free' boasts strings, vocal dubs and a decidedly slower tempo. The best is saved for last, however, with the fantastic 'Parisian Skies'. The song is the most bold and most sentimental on the album. Paul Smith sings 'I loved the tiny veins on your back, They remind me of the way that porcelain cracks'-two lines that also how the band has added a new depth to their music. This is a much welcomed progression and, importantly, it has not come at the expense of their trade mark sound.