Maxïmo Park

The National Health

Written by: TL on 09/12/2012 15:27:30

I know, I know, "The National Health", the fourth album from Brit-rock veterans Maxïmo Park, came out all the way back in June and this review is way late. To be fair, it's not because of neglect on my behalf - sort of.. I had every intention of reviewing it, I just lost track of when it was released while I was reviewing other things and then you know.. six months later.. I remembered it and found out that it had been out for a looooong time. Whoops, shame on me, but hey, in case you haven't heard it to death in the mean time, dive into it with me will you?

Fortunately, "The National Health" is pretty easy album to review, because basically, if you like Britain's indie-rock tradition at all, then there's a high chance you're going to like at least parts of this. Maxïmo Park were part of the mid-noughties wave of the movement, offering a quirky, up-beat, distinctly British rock, comparable to that of Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Editors, The Maccabees, Idlewild and so on. The genre is still the same, and so Maxïmo Park are also still largely the same, albeit naturally, increasingly more calm, confident and mature in their approach. So the name of the game is batch of mostly up-beat songs that switch focus back and forth between simplistic yet effect-ladden guitar and keyboard playing by Duncan Lloyd and Lukas Woller and the spirited vocal work of Paul Smith.

There are a few down-beat moments in intro "When I Was Wild" and late album ballad "Unfamiliar" and especially the former actually provides a nice sense of depth and thoughtfulness in contrast to the otherwise fast-paced proceedings. But still, the songs that are likely to be remembered from here are definitely the fast ones, and in my opinion Maxïmo Park have front-loaded the record with the best of them, with title track "The National Health" and first single "Hips And Lips" rousing the listener early at tracks two and three, and the latter in particular is devilishly infectious considering the simplicity of the back and forth between its calm vocal lines and stormy walls of guitar and synth. Slightly mellower cuts like "The Undercurrents" and "Reluctant Love" are also soon to make impact, with the latter giving you the distinct feeling that the band clearly has some The Cure and/or The Smiths in their musical DNA (not that this should come as a surprise).

Those selections are the best of the bunch however, and while the songwriting on "The National Health" is pretty much rock-solid overall, you get the feeling that those will be the ones you return to in times to come, and the ones that'll be appearing in the band's setlist moving on as well. And for all the quality they have, they are very symptomatic of the album's overall feeling in the sense that they come off as good 'career-sustainers' more so than stepping stones to a new golden age of prosperity for the band. But then if you're in Maxïmo Park you are already in a pretty good place as a band, and if you're a fan of them, then more of what they're good at is hardly going to be a lousy proposition. A solid verdict then, but there's lacking a more refreshing energy or a grander and/or more intense scope to things, for "The National Health" to be a properly eye-popping top shelf product.

Download: Hips And Lips, The National Health, Reluctant Love,
For The Fans Of: Franz Ferdinand, The Maccabees, Idlewild, Kaiser Chiefs

Release Date 13.11.2012

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