The Review Corner are big fans of Max Park, but this album has divided us. The hard-core fans find it a little too formulaic in places, the less ardent among us think it’s their best album, main songwriter Paul Smith upping his game quite some way. There’s no predictable indie material, which they tend to fall into — and which has prevented them getting massive — but lots of melody, and some hard-hitting lyrics. The hard-core side like that predictable/typical sound, though.
Opener What Did We Do To You To Deserve This? sets the tone, with a crisp opening riff and a bouncy tune while Smith melodically rants (we think) about the bankers who ripped the country off, but paid no price.
Get High (No I Don’t) is an early standout, based on a throbbing bass line and building up to an explosive chorus; this could be about stupid people expressing stupid opinions. They get Mr Smith down, anyway.
There’s more pop with the excellent What Equals Love?, which we suspect will become as loved as Books From Boxes.
The title track is powerful; tight Max Park max musically, it’s about migrants drowning (presumably in reality and metaphorically) as Smith sings: “Throw your arms around me/ Before the waves all swallow me /I cannot breathe/Put your arms around me/I’ve come too far and the ocean’s deep/Where’s your empathy?”
And we’re only five tracks in. I’ll Be Around is crisp and tight with Casio-style keyboards and The Hero veers towards soul/funk. The CD gets more typical Max P as it plays through but never gets formulaic, and closer Alchemy is a warming pop tune.
All in all: their best yet; poppier it’s true, but a more consistent body of work.