Wild Mercury Sound

Maximo Park

John Mulvey

Faintly astonishing news the other day, when it emerged that the new Bloc Party album had entered the American charts at Number 12. I'm personally a bit underwhelmed by that record - Jacknife Lee's production is really bloated and distracting, I think - but it's interesting that arty-ish indie-rock now has serious commercial clout in the States.

The North American wing of this phenomenon - The Shins, The Arcade Fire, The Decemberists etc - is something we focus on in next month's Uncut. For the British faction, the pressure will obviously be on The Arctic Monkeys when they return in April (I should be hearing their "Favourite Worst Nightmares" any day now, by the way, and will obviously report back).

Maximo Park, though, clearly fancy their chances as the scene's dark horses. The Newcastle band's debut sold something like half a million copies without anyone really noticing. And the follow-up, "Our Earthly Pleasures", is a ferociously determined attempt to build on that. There's a danger here that Maximo Park might bulk up in a rather clumsy way (as The Kaiser Chiefs have done), or that they might be hit by the North-Eastern post-punk slump that did for the Futureheads' very good "News And Tributes" last year.

While it may be rash to expect "Our Earthly Pleasures" to eat up the Billboard charts in hot pursuit of Bloc Party, I genuinely hope this record does OK. Initially, it seems as if they've effectively remade "Apply Some Pressure" a dozen times, at different speeds, and with a slightly grander production by Pixies veteran Gil Norton.

Gradually, though, these insidious tunes reveal their own identities: romantic and thoughtful, as well as jittery and overdriven. In the press release I have, they mention Smashing Pumpkins and The Smiths, and while the former seems far-fetched, you can spot the latter in the yearning jangle of "Books From Boxes". What they remind me of, though, is Del Amitri. . .

I know, but bear with me. In 1985, Del Amitri released a very odd debut album that was a John Peel favourite, all blushing poetry and awkward angles. It was a terrific little record, and one that promptly died on its arse. Dropped by their label, the band went off, developed a plodding new AOR sound, and became international stars.

Hopefully, "Our Earthly Pleasures" will work out fine for Maximo Park: you can hear the notably manic first single, "Our Velocity", at their Myspace site. But if it all goes wrong, maybe they should grow some really serious sideburns. . .


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