Album review: Maximo Park - Risk To Exist

Maximo Park - Risk To Exist (Cooking Vinyl)
Maximo Park - Risk To Exist (Cooking Vinyl)

This is the sixth studio album by North East indie-rockers Maximo Park, and, quite possibly, the best of their career.

That's quite a statement given the calibre of what's gone before, with debut album A Certain Trigger certainly a cult classic, and each of its successors containing some great songs.

What makes this one stand out is that, like the debut, there's not a bad song on it: it's 11 top-notch tunes by a band at the top of their game.

It brings together their trademark indie-rock urgency, hip-swaying grooves and pop sensibilities with some of the best lyrics frontman Paul Smith has ever penned.

He's a thoughtful wordsmith, with the knack of encapsulating everyday sights, sounds and thoughts in song, but here he rails against the state of the world in general, and Britain in particular.

Many of the problems faced by the world today are addressed, from the recession caused by the bankers to refugee crisis, to the rise of the right in politics, and the use of drugs to the increasingly widespread use of inflammatory language in our media.

Opening track What Did We Do To You To Deserve This? is a case in point, setting out their album's agenda from the start.

Beginning in seemingly laid-back fashion, it soon lets you know that it means business: "You forgot to tell the truth, now it's too far away, when the auditors add it up in the books, will you keep them at bay?"

Some songs are messages of unity, while others are fuelled by anger at the elitist order of society.

Title track Risk To Exist, debuted live last year, is a Maximo classic in-waiting, which could become as popular a part of their live show as Graffiti, Going Missing or Our Velocity.

Addressing the refugee crisis in stark terms, its chorus alone ("Throw your arms around me, before the waves all swallow me, I cannot breathe"), makes it their best song in years.

Work And Then Wait, with its Pixies-like intro, is perhaps the most old-school Maximo Park song here, talking about "the old boys' network throwing its weight around", and is another strong contender for standout track.

Touring bass player Paul Rafferty's first appearance on record adds a different dimension, too, with Get High (No, I Don't) sounding funkier than Maximo have ever done.

Smith's vocals are more impassioned than ever, while Duncan Lloyd's distinctive guitarwork is at times shimmering and at others frantic.

Lukas Wooller's keyboards add a luscious layer to the likes Risk To Exist and Make What You Can, while drummer Tom English holds the whole glorious noise together.

The band have also enlisted the help of Mimi Parker from acclaimed US band Low, whose voice lends a lovely warmth to five tracks, including the title song.

I love this album more each time I hear it, and I can't wait to hear these songs live. 9/10.