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Those hyperactive Newcastle boys Maximo Park released album number four, The National Health, on June 11. Frontman Paul Smith said the album was born out of hating the happy, poppy songs bombarding the charts during this depressive global economic recession. Smith didn’t agree with what was happening in the charts and has been quoted as saying The National Health, along with other Maximo albums, is made by ‘looking at yourself.’ So does the album live up to Smith’s promises?
Well, sort of. It starts off with a morbid intro, with a piano led riff that wouldn’t be entirely out of place at a funeral. When I was Wild deals with love, loss and selfish youth, and sets a precedent for the rest of the album. Typical beats and melodies from the title track provide nothing spectacularly new from the band, however it does seem to take a stab at our current national depression, talking of moral wealth and going to the council. It’s not exactly political activism, just observing the standards of living most of us currently have to face.
Recent single Hips and Lips is definitely the standout track of the album; the synth riff can get stuck in your head for days. It’s the equivalent to Our Velocity or Apply Some Pressure for their most recent offering. The Undercurrents and Reluctant Love both give something soft yet catchy, and are generally more romantic tracks with the latter sounds a bit retro, like a 90s TV theme. Neither are particularly heavy on the synth. That’s a good thing though.
Elsewhere, This Is What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted offers an honest take on accidental heartbreak, with the lyrics ‘the biggest mistake of all/I didn’t return your call’. Although it’s Take Me Home which gets the prize for the best lyrics I’ve heard in a while: ‘Some gentlemen prefer brunettes/Well that’s an arbitrary turn of events’.
Both songs, along with most of the album, highlight what Maximo Park do so well: up-tempo downbeat tracks that stick around in your head. Dealing with melancholy subjects like heartbreak or hopelessness, they approach the subjects with fast beats and bad bass, without being aggressive or tense. So you find yourself unwittingly singing along. Whether it’s to the up-tempo beats or soft, retro-ish tracks, the point of an album is to subconsciously bury the songs in your head, right?
With 11 out of 13 good and unforgettable tracks, The National Health is a definite winner.