••• Nature Always Wins •••
Maxïmo Park release ‘Nature Always Wins’ on 26th February 2021.
Pre-Order the LTD. Turquoise vinyl from Amazon here: https://tinyurl.com/39eapjwq
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Maxïmo Park who are Paul Smith, Duncan Lloyd and Tom English have always shown so much compassion for life in all of their albums, almost documenting their feelings throughout the songs that they write. The New album shows no sign in diverting from doing that, exploring the joys and challenges of parenthood, as well as feelings of self-doubt and exploring yourself in an ever changing society of the world we live, also the acceptance of aging. This album certainly has a feeling of familiarity to the listeners.
The album has certainly come with fresh challenges such as a departure and the challenge of writting and recording over two continents. Despite the departure of band member Lukas Wooler, this album was always in the pipeline. Reflecting on the powers of modern technology, Smith explains that ten years ago this album would not have been possible in a global pandemic, especially with guest performances such as Pauline Murray on ‘Ardour‘. Changes were made such as Tom English playing the drums behind a screen and playing on livestream to the producer Ben Allen. Recently recruited keyboardist Jemma Freese also recorded from her home and had bounce files over.
‘Partly of my making‘ speaks of time creeping up on you, described as the album’s big and emphatic opener. Smith sings with pure passion and yearning which is clear in the lyrics “I’ve lost some luminosity” describes the fear many of us have when growing older, after all, we all want that light to keep shining brightly.
‘Versions of You‘ slows the tempo right down, Lloyd worked with Ben Allen on this one sending tunes between the UK and Atlanta, Ben Allen described it as both moody and melancholic.
Including the topic of parenthood, ‘Baby, Sleep‘ explores the surreal experience of sleep deprivation and what it causes, such as watching basketball at silly times of the morning, we only may have seen our younger days. “It may appal you to know, but the mall is the only place to go” will no doubt resolute with us all at the moment too but for many other restrictions other than parenthood. “What are all these balloons doing in my front room?” Speaks of how parenthood creeping up on you before you are even aware of it happening.
‘Placeholder‘ had drummer Tom English lead me to a completely different track in the introduction of this track which included a strong guitar riff and fast drums, which then falls into a melodic, upbeat sound and also accompanying lyrics that question who you are and a lost identity.
‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing‘ Is a stark contrast on the same subject, Smith compares his vocal delivery to that of a dog barking. Lloyd explains “In the end I just had to play it as steadily as possible, and get everything else on top to make it as exciting possible, including a really weird guitar solo in the middle which Ben spent some time making as dynamic-sounding as possible. And then there’s Paul’s frantic vocal delivery…” The self-doubt of parenting seeps through this track as well as the nature/nurture debate. Musically the chaos in this track adds to the subject and makes for an addictive listen.
‘Partly My Making‘ touches onto the struggle of accepting the aging process and is a topic you never hear enough of in pop songs. As a band, Smith explains he never wanted to do that, acceptance of the aging process is what it’s about which you can hear clearly in this, although its about age Smith wants to prove it is still powerful and full of beans, which he will no doubt prove when its played live.
‘All of Me‘ is a song all about re-assessing and learning from yourself. It is definitely up there with many of Maxïmo Park‘s crowd pleasing tracks, ‘All of Me‘ will bring about so much energy when performed live, Smith will no doubt showcase his radiant personality through his iconic moves and presence on stage. Speaking of the hope of returning to live gigs and the single Smith states “We shall gig again.” ‘All of Me‘ will be another stand out in the band’s ever growing arsenal of, as they say, “Bangers“. The synth sounds come from the collaboration with producer Ben Allen who is known for his work with Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley and Deerhunter… This is also the first time the band have ever co-written with a producer.
The synth again steals the show in ‘Meeting Up‘ and adds an upbeat pause before the album takes on a slower tempo that will follow, it also gives Keyboardist and backing vocalist Jemma Freese a chance to showcase her skills.
As with any creator, experiences shine through the art, in the instance of the song ‘Why Must A Building Burn’ Smith speaks of being in London of the time of the fires and how that impacted and managed to stick at the foremost of his mind. Other experiences that also bring forward the sometimes brutality of the world include the loss of their old merch guy Nick Alexander In the Bataclan Attacks, asking a question that all of us pine to know the answer to, why do such atrocious things have to happen before people in power react? This song gives a pointer to how creative the album is. Lloyd speaks of the influences from the 90s that he brought to this track, taking him back to a time when he was listening to bands such as The Vaselines and The Breeders brought about basing the chords around the acoustic guitar and running at a completely different tempo from ‘The Acid Remark‘ which is a high paced song from the start and mixes it all up at 2.33 into it, adding a fun element to this song.
‘Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel‘ leads us to a fluttery introduction and Smiths brooding voice asking us how am I supposed to feel? It’s definitely a gear changer which leads on to the next track ‘Child of the Flatlands‘. Frontman Paul Smith speaks of this as “An affectionate look at both the geographical and psychologically edgelands of the town where I grew up, punctuated by snapshots of modern Britain as viewed from a distant hillside.” This track really magnifies how Maxïmo Park can use their observations of the world around them and to exchange it into a music piece to share with their fans, this is why Maxïmo Park are so pleasing to both watch and listen to, what you see is pure authenticity of what Smith and the band have seen in world, being mirrored back to you. Lloyd nostalgically explains of the track and the reflection of Lukas Wooler leaving the band back in January 2019 “That was one where I was really conscious of Lukas leaving, so I wanted to write a piano song, obviously a lot simpler one than he could do! I wanted to give the basic chord pattern this walking pace, because with Paul’s lyrics, you are walking through this landscape of Paul’s life. There is a melancholy to it, and something that suggests memory, and keeps changing, So I wanted to have the chorus be the quietest thing, to underpin that very reflective feel.”
‘Nature Always Wins‘ is a title that is a nod towards the nature/nurture debate and is it our environment? or us that is capable of changing? It’s a music documentary of life shown to us through the music of the band, the way they have adapted to ageing and parenthood.
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