Maxïmo Park - Brain Cells | Track Review | By Volume

The kid that went down isn't dead; he just can't find his phone. The Hold Steady - Almost Everything

Maxïmo Park

Brain Cells

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Author: on December 21, 2013

Do you remember that Maxïmo Park song, “The Undercurrents”? It was some time last year… there was a video… they were on a bus and that guy with a bowler hat sung in a funny regional accent… umm, there were jolly keyboards and a nice-ish choral backing track. And okay I admit it, for the sake of making a point I’m pretending to run on empty here; from my thorough research, I can disclose that “The Undercurrents” was one of thirteen tracks that emanated from The National Health, Maxïmo Park’s last outing, that you, like me, have absolutely no recollection of due to their overly-familiar banality. Skip back to their 2009 effort Quicken the Heart, and there was that “Questing, Not Coasting” song and a couple of catchy-ish tunes, but you’re still not sure what you even made of that album. Wasn’t it just more of the same? Basically your vision is starting to clear, but you still can’t see shit. Our Earthly Pleasures in 2007, now there’s an album you can sink your teeth into. Good songs! Really good songs! Really very excellent songs! You were even relieved that they’d broken that sophomore album curse, but still, it’s not a patch on the pop-punk-indie-rip-roarin’ masterpiece that is 2005’s A Certain Trigger. No explanation needed. What an album. Whenever those booming drums kick in, I’m still the first one shouting: “I’d like to wait, to see how things turn out, if you APPLY SOME PRESSURE!

Trawling through Maxïmo Park’s discography highlights a cardinal sin committed by a vast lump of those quirky bands who shot to fame during the eventually-renowned early-2000’s glutted post-punk revival. The problem is that despite it being the defining factor behind their success, these bands simply refused to alter stylistically. Sure, this is an admirable, even noble stance to take, but, unless you’re The Strokes, it’s ultimately foolhardy. Even as their sound deteriorates, becomes stagnant or just gets forgotten about, they churn out album after album, weakening their impact and corrupting their reputation a little inch further every step of the way. From this point, a band is forced to make a decision: give up or change direction. Give up and you salvage some original credibility by not further damaging your catalogue. However, if a band chooses to change direction, they are again forced to make a decision; merely alter a winning formula or pull the rug out from underneath yourself and start from scratch. A stylistic shift, however, is the event horizon at the edge of the black hole of music. Everyone (yes, everyone) is hurtling toward it, but only the select few have enough power to stay in the light. If, when amending their methods, they make even one miscalculation, they throw themselves into the abyss without a trace. “Who the fuck were they again? Oh I remember them. They were shit.” Get it right, and they are snatched from the void with nanoseconds to spare. Unless they go all Futureheads and release a novelty a capella album. That’s just weird.

Maxïmo Park have morphed both dramatically and efficiently, and it is a breathtaking success on all fronts. The band are rendered unrecognisable, and though their original incarnation was a great ride while its effectiveness lasted, “Brain Cells” — its release sudden and silent — is a masterful step in the right direction. It’s frigid, estranging and hostile, but it’s undeniable subtlety is so expertly (and sparingly) used that it doesn’t let on any sort of desperation. This is the sound of a restless, envenomed band putting us in our place and trying to psyche us out. All that pent-up energy that exhausted their previous effort is swept aside so comprehensively that it’s a wonder we remember it at all. That’s not to say their new sound is a revelation as such, nor is it even that new. In all honesty it sounds almost exactly like Depeche Mode. Well, Depeche Mode via Bloc Party, and before you say anything, that’s not a bad thing!

I’ll be honest, I’ve hit a dead end recently. Rounding off the year has brought into light my weariness — yeah these albums are good, these albums are bad, whatever. Can I be bothered with the next batch of albums churned out by bands that only care about the money? Well, “Brain Cells” has clouted me into action. It’s moody, bleak and danceable in a mumbling, grumbling sort of fashion, and it’s utterly fantastic. It gives me hope that on the 3rd of February, the album that this sleek little number resides on will be unleashed into the cosmos. The fifth installment in Maxïmo Park’s endless quest to give every album release a three-word title is set to be a trend-bending twist if this is anything to go by, and I’m actually excited! Yes I DO care about new music! Yes I DO finally want an upcoming album! Yes I DO want it right goddamn now! Open the champagne! Maxïmo Park have saved Christmas!


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