A record that purrs with vitality...

Maxïmo Park are perhaps one of the most misunderstood guitar groups in the country. An art-rock proposition from the North East, the band’s opening two records were released on Warp - y’know… Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada et al - and they rode the initial post-punk revival to their commercial zenith.

When the indie bubble burst, however, they seemed to get dragged down by the declining reputation of their peers, in spite of the undeniable politicised potency that drove latter-day highlights such as 2016’s ‘Risk To Exist’.

‘Nature Always Wins’ presents a band who have been both over-hyped and under-appreciated, operating staunchly on their own terms. Reduced to a core trio, it would be easy to peg the record as a kind of re-birth - it’s confident, outward, poppy, and vital - but the truth is a little more nuanced than that.

Opening with subdued pairing ‘Partly Of My Making’ and ‘Versions Of You’ the record bursts into life with ‘Baby, Sleep’ a track whose punchy riff-making pushes aside younger denizens of the post-punk revival - step back Fontaines, on yer arse Shame - while lyrically it taps into the emotions and pressures that come with fatherhood.

‘Placeholder’ is a neat piece of 80s leaning guitar pop - think Go-Betweens at their slickest, and you’d be close - while the synth-propelled ‘All Of Me’ feels tailor-made for the summer festival season. Indeed, ‘Nature Always Wins’ can scarcely be accused of lacking energy. ‘Meeting Up’ is a heads-down bass-driven chugger, while the snappy guitar lines on ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing’ seem to spit out anti-authoritarian messages in Morse code.  

Indeed, Maxïmo Park seem to connect with every punch they throw. ‘Ardour’ pits Paul Smith against Pauline Murray on a stop-start duet, while lyrically it seems to discuss the pressures of modern technology on romantic communication: “What’s become of me? I’m scrolling my sleep…”

‘The Acid Remark’ is a fun, brisk, direct slice of guitar-driven alt-pop, a contrast to the ominous darkness that greets closer ‘Child Of The Flatlands’, with its brooding stance recalling The Sound or even Ultravox. Potent and downcast, it finds Paul Smith purring: “I was too shy to cause a scene…” before warning “the libraries are closing down, where will the children go when they feel alone?”

Perhaps more subtle in its political inclinations than its predecessor - indeed, the band joked about being Centrist Dads to Clash last year - ‘Nature Always Wins’ doesn’t back down from its targets. A band whose early commercial ubiquity shouldn’t obscure the continued creative vitality of their work, Maximo Park open a fresh era with some of their finest work in a decade.


Words: Robin Murray

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