One of their most ambitious and affecting records yet
Michelle Lloyd
11:46 23rd February 2021

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It may be sixteen years on from their efficacious debut A Certain Trigger, but there’s no stopping Maximo Park as they return with more anthems of solidarity and connection on their seventh studio album Nature Always Wins.

Some foolishly lumped Maximo Park in the mid-noughties landfill indie pile; commending 'Apply Some Pressure' for its raucous, infectious indie disco credentials but never digging a little deeper to see the wizardry of Paul Smith’s wordsmithery and his band's innate ability to consistently pen universally relatable songs that ponder the everyday. Thankfully their critics have always been quelled by the sheer adulation of their fans and the unwavering support of some of the country’s biggest DJ’s which has led to the band outliving many of their peers and still maintaining their place at the forefront of indie pop today. 

Maximo Park have always known their place in the world, which shrewdly ties in to the title of this new album: they know they’re a pop band, they don’t fight it. Neither do they sit on their laurels and churn out the same indie bangers – they evolve and progress with every record, whilst never shying away from their expertism in contagious hooks and melodies and penchant for exploring the loftier subjects.

Nature Always Wins was created in the aftermath of keyboardist Lukas’ departure from the band, which meant only three of the original five members remained: a make-or-break time for any band, but especially difficult for a band well known for their use of keys. Rather than seeing it as some sort of full-stop, Maximo Park used the reshuffle as a catalyst and set about creating what has turned out to be one of their most ambitious and affecting records yet.

Working with Grammy-winning producer Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley) has seen the band adopt a more atmospheric layered sound and delve into a bold new ambient territory with spry synths. Rest assured the quintessential punky Maximo sound still permeates with the likes of ‘Baby, Sleep’ and ‘All of Me’ soaring high with almighty earworm sensibilities. 

As ever, lyrically they’re conspicuous and inquisitive but there’s a level of introspection and intimacy on the record that we haven’t seen before, with frontman Paul Smith detailing the anxiety of newfound fatherhood and the existential questions it throws up. The indignantly tireless ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing’ with its crushing beat and frenetic utterance a stark reminder of the pressure new parents are subjected to - “did I pass it on, all the anger and doubt”.

Having never been afraid to explore the more arduous topics in pop music, ‘Why Must a Building Burn’ laments the loss of unity and alliance and the barbarous realities of disaster and terrorism as well as the maltreatment of ethnic minority groups. Borne from the band waking up in London the morning after the Grenfell disaster as well as losing one of their old merch guys Nick Alexander in the Bataclan attacks; it’s another first rate example of their ability to say something far-reaching and heartrending within a track that is also so easy to sing and dance along to.

‘Child of the Flatlands’ served as their first offering from the album and rather fittingly is the last song on the album. It’s grandiose, ruminative, and sees everything turned down a notch. The track sees us metaphorically walking through Paul’s life with him both geographically and psychologically with the keys mirroring his walking pace. It feels like the perfect culmination to all that’s gone before it; leaving you reflective and slightly melancholy, pondering your own existence.

Nature Always Wins is an album that not only ticks all the boxes that steadfast Maximo fans will be looking for (hooks, melodies, sing-along choruses) but it refreshingly shows an awareness of growing older and reflects on the changing priorities that most of us who were with them back in the mid-noughties are now also experiencing. They’re not hankering for the past; they’re clearly very contended with the present.

Nature Always Wins arrives 26 February via Prolifica/PIAS.

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Photo: Press