Random Rules: Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park

Random Rules: Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park

The shuffler: Fronting inventive British pop group Maxïmo Park, singer Paul Smith is kinetic and charismatic enough to outpace a Looney Tunes episode, as is the band's second album, Our Earthly Pleasures, released earlier this year.

Minutemen, "The World According To Nouns"

Paul Smith: Well, what comes to mind? I think of D. Boon and his cleverness, and the fact that they were sort of punkish and funky, but without it being this sort of funk-punk thing. It seems like there's a real sense of humor going through that stuff, as well as it being really seriously engaged with the world. I could talk about the Minutemen for a long time.

CSS, "C.S.S. Suxxx"

PS: I lost an iPod in Vienna, and it had like 8,000 songs on it, and I started this new one. They're a very fun band. I've seen them live a few times, and it makes me laugh. Really funny between songs as well, which endears me to them. Even though I say, "Don't judge a band by the picture," they're a very cool band, and I'm always wary of that sort of thing. But then I got the record, and the single, "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above," is one of the great singles of our time, I think. It's insistently funky, and it's got little sounds in it. This song's obviously a bit more of a joke, and I'm not so keen on self-referential songs. It has its ups and downs, but the high points are really good pop music.

Prince, "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?"

PS: I'm gonna do a cover version of "Diamonds And Pearls," the title track of his [1991] album. It's got a hologram on the cover of Prince having his abdomen rubbed by two ladies. And I thought, "What a card! How did he get away with that?" But he does, 'cause he's Prince, and nobody else is. It's not his best record, by any means, but "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" is just a straight-up fantastic soul song. I was 12 or 13 and I didn't know much about it, apart from, he was that guy who rode around in videos and was sort of this androgynous little fella. I had so much fun going and finding his first record and his second one, and songs like "Uptown" and "Head" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover"—dirty songs, but he gets away with it, because you don't feel like he really means it. I feel like he's just seeing what he can get away with, and sure enough, now he's a Jehovah's Witness.

Clipse, "Momma I'm So Sorry"

PS: I keep missing them everywhere they go, and it's really annoying me now. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I saw the Wu-Tang Clan the other day in Scotland, and I saw De La Soul last night. Clipse, I'll probably have to wait another 10 years, until they're not as good. It is one of the records of the year, whenever it's being released. I can't get it out of my head. This is like, "Momma I'm so sorry I'm so obnoxious / I don't fear Tubbs and Crockett." You know, like, I can repeat a lot of it, 'cause it just eats away at you, and I'm sure that's down to the production as much as the rapping. They've got so much room to breathe and have fun. It's the first rap album I've listened to since Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein, where I've listened to it all the way through, and never for one moment did I think of turning it off. I was gripped, mostly by the production, the little hooks, where he goes, "mmm"—you listen to it two or three times, and you realize that the hook is just sort of mumblin' around. The topics are quite rap. It's quite funny in its own way. I didn't know there were that many metaphors for crack cocaine. "Call me frosty"—awesome lines. It's ingenious in its own way, and I defy anybody to disagree.

Youth Brigade, "Wrong Decision"

PS: I really like a lot of hardcore punk music from Washington, D.C. in the early '80s. I got into it through Fugazi, then looked backward. I remember seeing Fugazi in Newcastle, and it was just a fierce show, truly honest. These guys believe in what they're doing so much that it carries you away. It's clever as well as being brutal, whereas a lot of the hardcore stuff is just brutal, and that's why I like it. It's just a blast of sound. I've listened to Wolf Eyes for the same reasons, but it'd probably be a six-minute track instead of a 90-second track.

Young Tiger, "I Was There (At The Coronation)"

PS: It's calypso music from the '50s, and it's about the coronation of the Queen. He died recently, I read an obituary about him, and I've been writing songs based on obituaries. If I read an obituary, sometimes it just ends up being the song, because I've been trying not to write too much about me, because the last two albums, the lyrics have been quite personal.

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