Having made their name thanks to their trademark angular and heartfelt pop music, that Maxïmo Park’s sixth LP ‘Risk to Exist’ should be predicated on politics comes as something of a surprise. It probably shouldn’t, however. The band’s native North East is a region built on industry, and like many others in the UK, has been hit hard by government cuts and rising unemployment. For a band whose lyrics are often hinged on a nostalgic romanticism to become a mouthpiece for the voiceless, the situation must be pretty grim indeed, and not just up north.
At its heart, ‘Risk to Exist’ is still every bit a Maxïmo Park record and is thankfully far less grim than the realities it documents. From the fizzy freneticism of the title-track to the propulsive synths of ‘Make What You Can’, there’s an optimism present behind the stories of widening wage gaps and benefit sanctions that’s inherently Maxïmo. And though their ability in finding hope when it seems there isn’t usually harbours a more romantic sentiment, however ill-fated, turning their hands to social commentary is a testament to the band’s nature.
From the spikey grooves of opener ‘What Did We Do To Deserve This’ to the rousing ‘Work and Then Wait’ the band’s distaste for the way things are currently is evident. And though it’s easy for bands to jump on the social justice bandwagon, there’s a sincerity at the core of ‘Risk to Exist’ that’s difficult to ignore and impossible not to admire.
Of course, Maxïmo have dabbled in politics before, ‘The National Health’ for instance, or ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ — but never have they been so prevalent, so bold-faced. That does come with a price however. Paul Smith’s lyrics feel a little more on the nose than usual, somewhat less nuanced. It’s a small price to pay though for a record that fits neatly in to the Maxïmo Park canon, while seeking to distance itself from it subtly.
Words: Dave Beech
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