I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Maximo Park (Going Missing is one of the best songs of the last decade) and you can tell that they’ve put a lot of love into their latest album, National Health. There’s a few tracks that give the album a wide appeal, like Hips and Lips, but on the whole it’s an album for fans, so if you like Maximo Park, then you’ll probably like it, but if you’re not you might struggle to find kind words for parts of National Health.
Opener, When I Was Wild, is a heavy opus of a track, but Paul Smith’s vocals have too much weight to them, giving it a rough beginning. However, old school Maximo Park pace and impact is at the heart of the title song, National Health, which is the real mark of the record.
It sets up the class and sophisticated percussion and melody mix of single, Hips and Lips. It’s got a great dark feel, telling of a doomed relationship, but more than anything, it’s got a cool sound that is the highlight of National Health.
The Undercurrents adds a bit of catchy 60s pop, with shades of The Beach Boys, but things don’t quite work so well on the misguided, Write This Down.
There’s a Snow Patrol dampness that some might call sweet on Reluctant Love, and while the song sounds good, it won’t do anything for their street cred. It’s just too straightforward and one dimensional to do anything to really impress.
Until The Earth Would Open is a bit uneventful, but Banlieue wakes the album up again with darker guitar effects that wouldn’t be out if place on Wintersleep’s New Inheritors.
This Is What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted shifts things down with piano keys, but there are elements that grate slightly, including more simplistic lovelorn yawnings.
The lyrics are a bit Widow Twanky on the 80s influenced Wolf Of A Man, and Take Me Home suffers from the same problem in parts.
Things take an acoustic ballad poem turn on Unfamiliar Places without making any significant dent, which is juxtaposed with the faster tempo of Waves Of Fear, but still no real impact for end of the album.
Maximo Park’s National Health, through impartial eyes, has got a few stand-out tracks, but on the whole fails to deliver the musical and lyrical brilliance consistently throughout the album. However, for MP fans it’s a welcome return for an old ally.
Maximo Park, National Health album review: 3.5/5
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