Maximo Park

Maximo Park: Over

Maximo Park seem to come from the strong tradition of British social realism, of the kind embodied in Sixties black and white films by the brooding presence of an Alan Bates or Albert Finney, as their frustrated and, always, Northern characters wrestled with an overpowering sense of misanthropy in a world of scant opportunity and snatched furtive sex, usually resulting in unwanted pregnancy and backstreet abortion.Actually, despite coming from Newcastle Upon Tyne, Maximo Park do not sing about any of these things - except perhaps the furtive sex. And they certainly don't consciously hark back to the past in the sepia tones of, say, the Smiths. But, there at the centre of these tightly-wound songs are biting contemporary takes on familiar feelings of being stuck in a small town and desperately needing to find some energy and sense of relief, just to stay alive.Maximo Park songs positively vibrate with contained energy, and it is something that more than occasionally spills out. Singer Paul Smith describes the anger behind the songs as a force to drive them forward, ever faster. "It's the same with the live performance," he says. "There is a controlled power that enables you to give the audience something of the feelings you had when you wrote the songs."It's true, listening to his tales of missed sexual opportunity ('The Night I Lost My Head', 'Just A Glimpse' and 'Kiss You Better' - do I detect a theme here?) and inability to achieve even basic aims ('Apply Some Pressure', 'Signal & Sign'), you recognise the kinds of small situations and scenarios to which we can all relate.Claiming to be inspired by no other front men, Paul cuts the intriguing and charismatic character of perhaps a less gawky junior Jarvis Cocker, able to articulate in his own instantly, identifiable voice and effortlessly expand the pop lexicon to include such words as "inertia" and "Limassol", while rhyming a simple line like "I am young and I am lost" with an egg-head couplet like "you respond to my riposte!".In truth, though, Maximo Park are all about pop songs. They pepper their material with nagging, insistent hooks set in easy-yet-inventive structures, which seem to borrow from such excellent and disparate sources as the Stone Roses (the euphoria), Dinosaur Jnr (the guitars), Stranglers (the organ) and Wire (some other guitars).'Graffiti', in some ways, exemplifies the Maximo Park experience, beginning with urgent, plangent guitars and the first line "Well, that's enough, I can't take it anymore!" before proceeding to the proposition that "I'll do graffiti, if you sing to me in French". It is at once so preposterous and oddly romantic that you can't help but feel strangely elated.Elsewhere, 'Going Missing' embodies the overwhelming sense of freedom you get for about two days when you finally shake off a shitty relationship. Lukas Wooller's exultant organ chords and Archis Tiku and Duncan Lloyd's splendid chiming guitars make it an instant anthem. These two songs were on a soon-to-be very valuable debut independent single, which earlier this year sold out in the North East and attracted the stunned attention of Steve Beckett at Warp Records.Now Warp are betting the farm on a band they are viewing as the label's most important pop commodity since they released the trio of singles which propelled Pulp into the mainstream 10 years since. Not for the first time Warp are right.The new Maximo Park single is a double A-side of 'The Night I Lost My Head' and 'The Coast is Always Changing', which between them give a good glimpse of the 'Park's landscape. 'The Night I Lost My Head' is a splenetic burst of fast rising tension, all bug-eyed piano lines and choppy angular guitars, topped off by Paul's woeful tale of failing to cop off because he's too drunk to, er, get it together. "You found me indiscreet on the night I lost my head / You found me in the street on the night I lost my head!"'The Coast is Always Changing' undermines Paul's own idea that he is lyrically direct, by being about the geological timescale and the way it affects the local Blast Beach, and all this as a metaphor for the changeability of the human heart... Fortunately the tune is pretty as the picture he frames in his mind, while the guitars are delicately intricate and Tom English's drumming a compelling military tattoo. It's a heck of single.