Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Album Review: Maxïmo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures

Our Earthly Pleasures is the second effort from the Newcastle quintet, and while their debut effort – A Certain Trigger – was defined by its hastiness and raw energy, the band has taken much more time and care in crafting their second release. This time, production duties were given to Gil Norton, producer to Foo Fighters and Pixies circa Doolittle. The result is an album that is more anthemic, bolder, and certainly more radio-friendly, but perhaps lacking some of the eager, nervous energy of their debut.

‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ starts the album off on a strong note. While it’s instantly clear that this is a more polished effort than Trigger, the energy from Trigger is still eminent in the angular guitars and Smith’s energetic howl. Lead single ‘Our Velocity’ continues the album at a similar pace. The album briefly dips when it reaches the middle two tracks, ‘When ‘Karaoke Plays’ and ‘Your Urge’, which are both forgettable tracks; both seem to keep a constant flat-line of dynamics for the duration of the song.

Smith’s lyrics throughout are fantastic, and possibly even save some of the songs from obscurity. On ‘A Fortnight’s Time’ he sings, on relationships, ‘when it comes to girls I’m mostly hypothetical / if I list their names it’s purely alphabetical / when it comes to girls I’m truly theoretical / if I touch their nerve it’s merely dialectical’. Similar themes are prevalent through the rest of the tracks, but it doesn’t get old. As has been the case with their other songs, Smith proves himself the backbone of the band.

Our Earthly Pleasures is better sounding, both crisper and cleaner, and more calculated than their previous work. Whether this is a good thing really depends on what you prefer. But while half the album is made of catchy rock songs that will be sure-fire hits (‘Girls Who Play Guitars’, ‘A Fortnight’s Time’, ‘Our Velocity’), the other half is forgettable (‘Your Urge’, ‘Sandblasted And Set Free’, ‘By The Monument’). If one thing’s for certain, make sure you see this band live, as reports of their live gigs in the UK show that even the weaker tracks on the album will sound fantastic when the middleman of the sound-deck is cut out.

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