Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our Earthly Pleasures by Maximo Park

When you're onto a good thing, you're faced with a heap of choices:

Push new boundaries, challenge yourself and your listeners.

Soullessly attempt to recreate whatever it was you first did in an attempt to benefit with more money and/or groupies.

Stick to it.

Happily, Maximo Park have chosen door number three with their second long player, Our Earthly Pleasures, which comes to us replete with a similar formula that worked so successfully on 2005's A Certain Trigger. Guitars alternate between post-punk and modern-day melodicism (yes, I just invented a word, what are you going to do?), anchored by a solid if unimaginative rhythm section and glued together by some inventive keyboards and the wonderfully Yorkshire-esque vocal stylings of frontman Paul Smith. While Smith has little to say that is particularly shocking or personally revealing, he says it in such a way that you can't help but be moved. 'I've got no-one to call/In the middle of the night anymore' he glumly announces on lead single 'Our Velocity', which smoothly alternates between the riffing heaviness of 'Limassol' from their debut and the delicate chorus of 'The Coast is Always Changing'.

This song stands as the midpoint of an opening triple-salvo which proves to those willing to listen that Maximo Park are one of the better exponents of perfectly melodic pop-rock going around at the moment. Opener 'Girls Who Play Guitar' puts a quirky lyrical slant on a standard breakup tale, complete with catchy backing vocals from the band, while the final chorus of 'Books from Boxes' will win over even the most cold-hearted.

While, at 13 tracks, Our Earthly Pleasures threatens to overstay its welcome (and there are a few weaker tracks towards the back before being resuced by 'Nosebleed' and 'Robert Altman'), it is more than atoned by numerous moments of sheer joyful wonder. With a charming frontman, and a knack for bridges and choruses that can't help but brighten your day, Maximo Park are onto a good thing. Here's hoping they don't stick to it for too long.

3 1/2 stars

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