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Paul Smith and the Intimations: Contradicions

review smithA x1 cong

Smith is the singer with Maxïmo Park, who have a hard-core following (which includes the Review Corner) but have sold comparatively few albums — I think I saw a lifetime total of 2m the other week. Two million albums is good, but it’s not Oasis.
A fair chunk of that was the A Certain Trigger, their 2005 debut, which sold 300,000 copies and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. (That was the year Antony and the Johnsons won, beating off Coldplay and Seth Lakeman).
Maxïmo Park write clever, heartfelt songs that are slightly arty and tightly played. Smith’s own songs are clever, heartfelt songs that are slightly arty and tightly played — the only difference being that they are slightly softer than the songs he does with the day job. We’d guess that people who don’t like the band would find them and him a little samey.
This new CD is very much a vinyl album: we reckon you’d play side one to death, while side two would see less action, at least at first.
Opener The Deep End is very good, slick and smooth with Smith gently caressing the lyrics. He’s good with words and the title of the album is worked into the chorus, there being no song actually called “contradictions”.
Break Me Down is little different from a Maxïmo Park song, and is also good, with a reflective guitar part. Reintroducing the Red Kite is the start of a more reflection section of the album (not that Smith isn’t always reflective), with some evocative guitar work that evokes a coastal scene.
Smith himself says it wasn’t the coast of his native North East that was his inspiration but New York pleasure beach Coney Island “a terribly romantic place”, according to Smith, who was motivated after seeing saw black and white photographs from 4th July 1958 of people asleep on the sand. The album has the feel of a windswept pier in autumn, though it would be an industrial town’s pier and not a rural idyll. Ironically, the track Coney Island is one we like the least.
The album slows a bit in the middle, though not for the worse, and  Fill In The Blanks in particular is a strong track, though it picks up with People On Sunday (which has sparky poppy acoustic guitar reminiscent of Cockney Rebel in places).
Although there’s a couple of songs that are bit too Paul Smith for us, it’s a strong album, for those who like intelligent indie pop rock.

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