Why did they go away for so long?! Frontman Paul Smith may have proclaimed that not releasing his solo album <em>Margins</em> would have lead him to craziness, but bringing that string of indie dancefloor fillers from a previous 3 studio album discography such as ‘Apply Some Pressure’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ to a halt may not have allowed the North-East 5-piece Maximo Park to see their work compared to the modern indie greats like they fully deserve. The National Health may not be bringing the fresh take on things like we might expect following a 3 year hiatus, but who cares? It’s a mere showcase of the coupling of catchy melodies and emotive yearns that Maximo Park do so well.
Perhaps opening track ‘When I Was Wild’ does ring similar to somewhat pretentious echoes of lead singer Pauls Smith’s solo material, but we’re not mislead. Escaping leading us to believe that the 3 years were filling with unwanted Maximo-overmaturing and bore, we’re soon thrown back into the frenzied fury we’d been missing all along, in the form of title track ‘The National Health’. As if we even had to be reminded why we love arguably one of the most interesting British rock bands of the last 10 years just as much as we do, political spits and bitterness pack a massive punch.
Listening to the album, we’re reassured in our belief that Maximo Park will never fail to write brilliant anthemic music. Hurried hurtling beats and more favoured than ever synth melodies from the likes of ‘Hips and Lips’ ‘Write This Down’ and ‘Banlieue’ hint at captivating live moments. One listen and there’s a transportation to crowd re-enactments of Paul Smith’s infamous trouser splitting scissor kicks. Maybe a little brash to say, but The National Health almost verges on perfection. If circulating session videos of emotive album highlight ‘The Undercurrents’ weren’t enough to warm us with its beautiful sentimentality, ‘Reluctant Love’ is a prime example of well-lyricised heart-ache as Smith begs ‘I need to know how you really feel’.
Really, Paul Smith is the main reason we listen to Maximo Park. Given, the rest of the band show obvious talent in creating those famous Maximo-melodies that fill our ears on crowded dance floors at the weekend, but with such little focus on bringing fresh takes on their music (and rightly so), Smith’s often mumbled vocals give even more of a reason to enjoy their music. Though not the most ground-breaking of albums, Maximo Park couldn’t be getting things more right with The National Health.