Vocalist Paul Smith, guitarist Duncan Lloyd, keyboardist Lukas Wooler, drummer Tom English, and bassist Archis Tiku formed Maximo Park in Newcastle in 2001, naming their group after a park in Havana where revolutionaries once gathered. If not pop rock revolutionaries, at least Maximo Park sounds different than a lot of the rank and file. In much the same way the Arctic Monkeys took familiar elements and, through force of will, put a distinct imprint on the result, Maximo Park is a testament to youthful confidence and determination. The ruggedly strummed guitars, variously applied keyboards, chugging rhythm section and emotionally potent lyrics touch on antecedents as far back as XTC, Devo, Talking Heads and the Stranglers but carve out a creative space — a little stiff and rigorous, a little overzealous and hasty, bitter and loving — all their own.
Apply Some Pressure repackages both sides of the quintet’s first two singles, “The Coast Is Always Changing” and “Apply Some Pressure.” Those A-sides also appear on A Certain Trigger, an impressive debut of articulate and punchy pop rock. The pulsing “Signal and Sign” makes a dynamic beginning, followed by such standout tracks as the blurry, busy “Graffiti” and the energetic “Kiss You Better.” With a throbbing synth line coiling through the surging drive, “Limassol” is a blistering slice of new wavy pop. Some copies of A Certain Trigger include a bonus concert CD, Live in Tokyo.
Missing Songs is an uneven collection of B-sides and demos. “A19” could have been a potent pop rocker, but its farting synthesizer breaks serve no purpose, and the time changes don’t work. But “A Year of Doubt” is propelled by a catchy guitar hook, and its lyrics are album’s the most effectively straightforward. The demos of “Apply Some Pressure,” Graffiti” and “Once, a Glimpse” offer nothing revelatory, but they do demonstrate why the band landed a recording deal. The disc was also packaged as a double-pack with A Certain Trigger (not including Live in Tokyo).
Our Earthly Pleasures benefits from a measure of stylistic diversity, from the frenzied and hard-edged “Our Velocity” to the keyboards-heavy “The Unshockable.” The rhythm section shines on “Girls Who Play Guitar,” while “Books From Boxes” boasts beautiful guitar and some of Smith’s most engaging lyrics: “Night falls / And towns become circuit boards / We can beat the sun as long as we keep moving.” The instrumental interplay on “Nosebleed” is lilting and lovely, while the strings on “Sandblasted and Set Free” are simply beautiful. The tremolo guitar on “Pride Before a Fall” is a welcome addition to an already impressive sonic palette. Our Earthly Pleasures is a beautifully crafted set of songs.