Time hasn’t been kind to many of Maxïmo Park’s post-punk contemporaries. While the likes of Bloc Party and The Enemy flounder in stagnation, however, the Newcastle quintet continue to flirt with reinvention.
Their 2012 album The National Health saw them toying with political tub-thumping and this time round, with fifth album Too Much Information, they’re reviving their fortunes with the enhancement of electronics and beats.
Such a move is the tried and tested route for many bands staving off redundancy but Paul Smith’s outfit succeed where many have failed. Opening their 22-song set with ‘Give, Get, Take’ they set the standard for this feat, its fidgety keyboards and punchy chorus emitting both drama and energy.
These qualities are consolidated by the hyperactive presence of Smith, who’s dressed in usual suit and trilby. With his knowing wit (explaining that his shades are due to eye surgery rather than rock star cliché), mic stand wielding and exaggerated poses he could easily be cast as Freddie Mercury in the ill-fated biopic.
This kind of strident showmanship is reigned in on some of the more electronic tracks: the moody Depeche Mode-esque ‘Brain Cells’, which features guitarist Duncan Lloyd on drum pad; the guitar-free ‘Leave This Island’, on which Lukas Wooller decants a lithe 80’s synth line; and dub influenced ‘My Bloody Mind’.
These are punctuated with their trademark new-wave wiriness, with the tightly wound ‘Apply Some Pressure’, ‘Limasoll’ and ‘The Undercurrents’ featuring sweeping melodies and strongly emotive choruses that are often bolstered by vigorous backing vocals from Wooller and Lloyd.
What ties the two sides of the band together, and which has always been one of their most distinguishing features, is their literary emo lyrics: ‘Her Name Was Audre’ referencing feminist poet Audre Lorde and ’Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’ being a nod to Lydia Davis’ experimental short stories.
This bookish romanticism, along with the band’s refusal to tread water, could just be their saving grace and this gig suggests that while record sales may have plateaued, Maxïmo Park retain genuine affection in the audience’s heart.
Gig date: March 13