Maxïmo Park’s seventh album ‘Nature Always Wins’ finds Paul Smith, Duncan Lloyd and Tom English asking ‘who we are, who do we want to be, and do we have any control over it?’ From issues of neglect, corruption and tragedy to major life changes, it’s all examined against a backdrop of art rock recorded and produced by Ben Allen (Animal Collective).
The record opens with the anthemic hooks of ‘Partly of My Making’ – a slow-build song with synths and squelchy effects complementing blasts of stabbed guitar and Paul’s trademark thoughtful lyrics: ‘You can clearly see my metabolism’s not what it used to be’. ‘Versions of You’ follows and is more explicitly about parenthood and the thoughts, feelings, excitement and anxiety this can bring (it’s a common theme running through the album). Paul tries to make sense of watching a little one grow up and his shift in priorities against a thrilling Simple Minds-esque soundtrack: ‘In my misery you will comfort me. When you’re down at heart, I will play my part. You have gifted me responsibility’. The new wave of ‘Baby Sleep’ follows with Paul sharing the thoughts that came to him while watching basketball late at night with a baby cradled on his knee: ‘What does the modern world mean to me?’
‘All of Me’ is an ultimately romantic song that talks about breaking down the obstacles that get in the way of your desires (‘This song is where you belong’) while ‘Meeting Up’ has more of an electronic New Order-style kick to it. There’s a self-depreciating edge to the refreshed and reinvigorated rock of ‘Why Must a Building Burn’: ‘Do you need a flag to know who you are? Do you get intentionally left behind?’, while ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing’ has a fuzzy feel that sums up how things can get on top of you: ‘My tastes are still the same, it’s just my habits that have changed’. There’s an increase in tempo on the jangly punk of ‘The Acid Remark’ before the album draws to a close with the double whammy of ‘Feelings I’m Supposed to Feel’ and ‘Child of the Flatlands’. The former finds Paul putting his innermost thoughts on fatherhood on record – ‘How am I supposed to feel denied the luxury of time? Your tiny voice makes me dewy eyed’; ‘A paradise when you close your eyes’ – in a way that recalls ‘Acrobat’ from the band’s debut, while the latter is a suitably fitting and reflective piece that looks back on the singer’s own childhood. With a running theme of the current undesirable state of UK politics (‘The libraries are closed down now. Where will the old folks go when they feel all alone?’; ‘The horse is bolting, the island’s revolting’), it finds Paul coming to terms with his place in the world (‘Maybe what I think of myself is not that important’) before settling on the title.
‘Nature Always Wins’, but so do Maxïmo Park… This is the latest record in their golden run.