Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Albums Of The Year: Number 5



About, ooh, once a year an album starts steadily and then several months later jumps out at you, when everything you'd superficially heard before suddenly emerges at the front of your brain and demands that you go back to the source again and again. On first listen, Maximo Park's A Certain Trigger resembled an accomplished set of post-punkeries, not as willingly ennobled to studio trickery as Bloc Party, not as street smart as Franz, lacking the barely controlled sprint finishes of the Futureheads, and certainly without the modern giveaway ground level chatter of all three prior to their first release. Then, without warning, around the time of its Mercury nomination, it suddenly dawned on us that this is an album that sets its own stall out in the middle of a busy market having revised all the tricks first.

Without getting into the debate about what Warp saw in them - perhaps Steve Beckett just liked their approach, and after all he ran Gift Records primarily to release Maximo's kindred spirits Pulp - there's definitely a lot of musical forward thinking that's gone into their sound. Hooks are plentiful but carefully disguised, song structure is maintained but played well and the whole thing moves at once with an elegance and also a kind of freneticism born of that kind of carefully streamlined musical manaicism that marks out a band unwilling to toe the record label in the midst of a scene party line - witness the spiralling bridge of Graffiti or the charge of the chorus of Once A Glimpse, roughed up where others would apply coats of gloss, and that's before we've got onto the Arab Strap-gone-krautrock drone of Acrobat. The Pulp link comes in Paul Smith's lyrics, utilising Jarvis' way with sexual frustration, stripping it of all implied lust and replacing it with a quiet seethe about why the world around him has let him down again, laced with the kind of self-deprecating humour that's seemed de rigeur for the whole Tyne & Wear scene since Bryan Ferry started crooning, a scene, by the way, that they've come up from well behind to run away with commercially. If it's not all down to the star jumps, it must be the connection with heart and mind alike that's done it.

LISTEN IN: Limassol
EXTRA FEATURE: Is this our excuse to dig out that picture of Smith when he looked slightly different again? He's come a long way since, stopping by Amazon to reveal the music we should be interested in

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