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Maximo Park © Steve Gullick

Maximo Park © Steve Gullick

Maximum impact from Maximo Park

Alternative popsters Maximo Park have just released their blistering new album ‘Risk To Exist’. HOT’s Erica Smith talked to vocalist Paul Smith about the motivation behind the music and why he is excited about playing the De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 13 May.

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Cover designs by Barry Smith

Like many graphic designers, my working life is driven by the post-punk beats of 6 Music. Last week my ears pricked up every time a punchy new tune was played – ‘Get High’ – the second single released from Maximo Park’s latest album. The album launch coincides with a national tour, and the band will be playing the De La Warr Pavilion for the first time.

I spoke to vocalist Paul Smith whilst the band were driving back to the North East from a gig to launch the new album in London. When I said that phone interviews at 10.20am were hardly part of a rock’n’roll lifestyle, he laughed and said they tried to smash rock star clichés. That’s true of the ‘Get High’ lyrics too – a song that sounds like it should be a celebration of drug-fuelled crazy dancing, is actually a straight-edge anthem. “We’re full of contradictions. The song is about resistance in the face of repetition and coercion. The video reflects that theme and the frantic groove of the music as the dancing protagonist reaches breaking point”.

In 2012 Maximo Park released an album called ‘The National Health’ which marked a change in their lyrical content:
“England is sick and I’m a casualty
I’m in a constant state of flux in terms of what to be
We generalise and we live inside
I feel we’re heading for a ca-ca-catastrophe.”

Five years on, and we’re reeling from last week’s sudden news of a general election. It’s the perfect time to release another album driven by incisive and insightful lyrics.
‘The album is, ultimately, about empathy. Some songs are simple messages of solidarity and others are fuelled by anger at the elitist, established order of British society. Musically, the songs reflect more soulful and groove-based influences, allowing more space in the arrangements than ever before. The central idea is to align great pop melodies with songs that reflect the state of the nation.”

‘Risk To Exist’ is a vital record for our times, raging against the dire state of world affairs and crumbling political systems. The title track, and first single from the album, is a stunning song inspired by the West’s response to the migrant crisis.

“Before the waves all swallow me
I cannot breathe
Put your arms around me
I’ve come too far and the ocean’s deep
Show some empathy.”

Proceeds from the sale of the single are going to MOAS – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station. Maximo Park are unashamedly political. When The National Health was released, Smith explained it as a plea for people to ‘take back control’ – a phrase which has recently been adopted by the Labour Party. I ask Smith how he feels about being an inspiration for the Left. “It’s true that we have got a quite a lot of Labour Councillors who follow us on Twitter – as well as some UKIP members! And Andy Burnham came to see one of our gigs.”

Smith continues to talk politics – without any sign of bitterness in his soft north-east accent. He is furious about the way that the nation’s wealth has been siphoned off and he hopes that the Labour Party can tap into the questioning of power that is explored in the lyrics and music of the new album. “There must be a different way of structuring our society in order to alleviate inequality.”

I tell him that Robert Tressell would be proud of him, and explain about ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, which he hasn’t heard of. We continue to talk about the tour and I ask him why he wanted to play Bexhill. “I’ve always loved 1930s architecture, so it was great to be able to book in a gig for the De La Warr Pavilion. We’re really looking forward to playing there.”

I know they are not alone in looking forward to the gig. What perfect timing for a rallying call to ‘Take Back Control’!

Maximo Park are playing at the De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 13 May.
Tickets are available online from the DLWP Box Office.
‘Risk to Exist’ is available on Daylighting/Cooking Vinyl and can be purchased here.

Posted 10:43 Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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