Maxïmo Park – The National Health

Maxïmo Park produce an encouraging but mixed fourth album.

Released 11/06/2012 on V2

Maybe I was wrong about Maxïmo Park. Up until now I’d written them off as another boring indie band with no punch to them. The National Health, then, was an opportunity for them to prove me wrong.

The album doesn’t do itself any favours with introductory track ‘When I Was Wild’. Vocalist Paul Smith questions if he “really needs to give an introduction”. Not really, Paul, and no one’s making you do it, so stop being pretentious and get on with the album. Luckily this only lasts a minute, and then we jig in to the title track. A warning: ‘The National Health’ is dangerously catchy. Forget the lyrics or the melodies, the sheer pace will have you shuffling in your seat. Cue a break from reviewing to dance around the room in an idiotic fashion.

The lead single ‘Hips And Lips’ follows, and takes the tempo down a few notches. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something quite sexy about this song which makes me want to dance again. Damn you, Paul. ‘Undercurrents’ continues in a similarly relaxed fashion. A really lovely song, the flowing lines of piano in the chorus and guitar in the middle eight make it stand out. ‘Reluctant Love’ is a calm and collected ballad that grows and fades from chorus to chorus.

Next is ‘Until The World Would Open’, which was just made for summer, an easy number about having fun while you still can. One of my least favourite tracks is ‘This Is What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’. It tries to be like ‘Undercurrents’ but somehow gets muddled up with ‘When I Was Wild’. Not a good combination.

After a trio of benign filler songs, the album closes with ‘Waves Of Fear’. It is a brisk jaunt that reflects on the questions Paul Smith asks in The National Health, and concludes the best solution is to just have a good laugh.

Perhaps Maxïmo Park aren’t quite the write off I had them pinned as. At their worst, they create poor ballads or the sort of bland indie only I seem to hate. At their best, they can write truly catchy numbers. Some of the tracks on this album have an early Kaiser Chiefs feel to them, which is no bad thing. It’s what made Kaiser Chiefs famous after all. If Maxïmo Park continue like this, I might have to pretend I never said a bad word against them. This is somewhat worrying - for me...

Turn On: The National Health, Undercurrents, Reluctant Love

Turn Off: When I Was Wild, This Is What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted

UnderSong Rating
6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆