Maxïmo Park had a lot to deal with in the run-up to the release of their seventh album, Nature Always Wins. Singer and lyricist Paul Smith, Tom English on drums, and Duncan Lloyd on guitar and keyboards made sure it was set to be an interesting one.
The album starts with the track ‘Party Of My Making’; the singer perfectly describes this song as having that in-your-face quality. This is a great way to describe the track’s musical quality. As an intro, it builds up anticipation in what to expect from the album but is not the party song we might want to hear. ‘Versions Of You’, however, the next song is much more upbeat, and it is as if we are starting to be led somewhere magical. In fact, as this album develops, the songs get better and better.
Finally, in ‘Baby Sleep’, we hear something familiar; this first single release is a song about parenthood. This song is as catchy as the band wanted it to be with its awesome riff and “bubblegum pop chorus,” as Smith describes. It even is a bop if you do not yet know the joys and parenthood. The lyrics bravely ask, “What does the modern world mean to me?” leaving us to ponder that very question. Parenthood is a theme that runs through the album and is present in other songs like ‘I Know What I’m Doing’, the energetic, driven track that includes a very odd guitar solo.
‘Placeholder’ comes next, and like the album in general, we find ourselves in a mix of something from generations before and a modern-day melody. ‘All of Me’ puts itself in the running for the track of the album, a poppier song that will be great live. It has a lovely vocal quality and lyrics that jubilantly reveal “This song is where you belong / This is all of me,” later proclaiming “It’s where you belong / It’s where I belong” over and over again.
This record is the first since founding member and keyboard player Luke Wooller left the band to live in Australia. Smith, English, and Lloyd decided to use the opportunity to shake things up a little. “There was a space there,” says Lloyd talking of Woollers departure. “And we decided to think of that space as more freedom. A fresh canvas. I could write something on the piano, or guitar, or bass, and that would begin something different.”
That different element turned out to be a different kind of fourth member, a producer who was also a musician, Ben Allen. From the get-go, he challenged the band, asking them to write over 40 songs! We have before us the culmination of that process of 12 select songs that made the cut. That process was, of course, hindered by the pandemic and lockdowns that left the members in completely different places, and yet they managed to produce something inspiring nonetheless.
Other stand-out songs include ‘Ardour’ which has slightly more aggressive vocals, hitting hard with a second voice of a woman letting us know, “It’s easier said than done.” That voice is courtesy of a proper “northeast legend” Pauline Murray from Penetration. ‘Meeting Up’ is a synth-based song with a wonderfully 80’s vibe with a twist of modernity. Throughout the album, it is hard to pinpoint genre, and songs like this throw us into confusion, especially when it’s immediately followed by ‘Why Must A Building Burn’ an originally acoustic-based song.
Ultimately Maxïmo Park is a pop band who like to make songs that their listeners can understand. Despite describing themselves as a pop band, they certainly are influenced by a lot of different genres. Their aim to make hooky, melodic and memorable songs is successfully executed on Nature Always WIns. Proving that inevitably their nature always wins out as producing solid, well-rounded songs is clearly in their DNA. You can buy, download, or stream Nature Always Wins in all the usual places — you’d be a fool not to.