Not renowned as being the heartbeat of the music world, Newcastle's more famous exports include footballers Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer, Newcastle Brown Ale, Ant & Dec and of course cult kids TV series Byker Grove. However Maximo Park offer what they describe as 'Pop songs about real life', which is exactly what they do.
First song 'Signal And Sign' has thumping drums and jumpy high pitch synthesisers. Paul Smith's vocals sound a little like an upbeat Bryan Ferry with Northern roots. He is not the same Paul Smith that's the guitarist of Silversun, nor is he the fashion designer of the same name, or even the quiet kid I went to school with - just in case you were wondering...
Maximo Park's sound is guitar led pop/rock. It's a little more upbeat and with a more original direction than the British pop/rock-by-numbers that various other bands are happy to exploit. 'Apply Some Pressure' sounds familiar for a good reason - it was a Top 20 hit recently and has all the ingredients required for such an accolade: a strong and repetitive melodic riff, with a catchy chorus.
The popular crossroads questions of things like 'where are we going?' appear in the song 'Graffiti' which has the lyrically interesting and can't-get-out-of-your-head chorus of 'I'll do graffiti/if you sing to me in French/What are we doing here/if romance isn't dead?'
There are the odd hints at many random influences from the 80's or more contemporary bands, like on 'I Want You To Stay' which sounds a little bit like a cross between The Jam and Violent Delight. The odd songs have a tendency to have a gentle plod of a verse which puts too much emphasis on lyrical content - then at other times Maximo Park overdose on using electric synthesisers, piano, unusual chord changes and extra drum fills.
'Once, A Glimpse' is a good song, but interestingly titled 'Now I'm All Over The Shop' is better. Quick vocals, and speedy ivory tinkling start just before guitar, bass and drums join in.
The high emotions are there on the sleeve for all to see in 'Acrobat' - which is by far the best song here. Spoken poetry of regret concerning a failed relationship, which sounds like the response to finding a Dear John letter to music, is almost haunting. Each spoken verse finishes with the repeated line of 'I don't remember losing sight of your needs', just before a singing chorus of the words 'I am not an acrobat/I cannot perform these tricks for you/losing all my balance/falling from a wire meant for you'. It's touching and thought provoking. Thankfully the album finishes with the jolly rumblings of 'Kiss You Better' so thank God for that.
It's an interesting spin on a genre that is getting somewhat boring and monotonous. Maximo Park inject something a little more creative and with the odd chart friendly ditty and the deep lyrical journey of aforementioned 'Acrobat' the champagne could well be put on ice for the Geordie lads...