Maximo Park The National Health
Maximo Park got its start with an interesting hook: It was the only rock band signed to the forward-thinking electronic label Warp, home to the likes of Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada. Four albums and a decade later, the British band is still making pretty much exactly the same music, a sort of classic, rambunctious, smart indie-rock that had no place on that roster, for better and worse. On the plus side, Maximo Park is still capable of producing unstoppable pop songs like early singles “Apply Some Pressure” and “The Coast Is Always Changing.” On the downside, the band’s albums are largely indistinguishable from each other except probably to the most diehard fans.
The National Health begins with what seems like an intention to do something different, with a short, piano-and-string powered ballad that will likely serve only to turn non-fans off: Paul Smith sings “Must the artist bleed / over the new production,” in his pretentious and/or ingratiating way. But the rest of the record offers the same urgent, wordy pop that Maximo Park sharpened to a fine point in the early aughts and kept scratching away with: There’s the Buzzcocks-y, fantastic title track, a toe-tapping nod to The Housemartins (“Until The Earth Would Open”), and a hyper-earnest anthem (“Write This Down”). Highlights, as usual, are complemented by weaker retreads like “Wolf Among Men,” which might be on all of the other Maximo records—who can remember? Still, the highlights are high enough that Maximo Park is still a band worth digging around in: Three tracks from each of its four albums would make a monster greatest-hits collection.