Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information (Includes CD)
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"I wanted to try something different this time," Paul Smith sings at one point on Too Much Information, and in fact, Maxïmo Park try a few new things on their fifth album. This set of songs began as an experimental EP with Field Music's David and Peter Brewis, and the band sound as playful and relaxed as they were forceful and serious on their previous album The National Health. It's clear that they wanted to try as many approaches as possible: "My Bloody Mind" begins as a grinding rocker, then settles into something more confessional and endearing as Paul Smith wonders "Why do I long for a life/That I already have?" over a flowing piano melody; "Brain Cells," meanwhile, delivers on the electronic flirtations Maxïmo Park have shown since A Certain Trigger with spare, paranoid synth pop. This is one of the richest veins of experimentation on Too Much Information, allowing the band to adopt different perspectives, musically and lyrically. On the shadowy "Is It True?," Smith -- who is usually a hopeless romantic in his songs -- sings about how "ambivalent" he is lying next to someone in bed; similarly, he balances suspicion and trust on "Leave This Island," proving that Maxïmo Park find the politics of relationships to be just as fraught as the social issues they explored on The National Health. They also return to more familiar territory with songs like the bookish love song "Her Name Was Audre" and "Give, Get, Take," a slice of fizzy indie that recalls "Apply Some Pressure." Aptly, the more guitar-driven tracks such as "Drinking Martinis" and "Midnight on the Hill" aren't just reminiscent of Maxïmo's early days, they're also about coming to terms with nostalgia. The intriguing contrast between the album's cheery indie rock and unsettled electronic pop recalls A Certain Trigger (which featured synth-driven interludes like "Acrobat" as well as sharp-edged indie), and it's another example of how Maxïmo Park have followed the searching heart of their music down different paths over the years. Given its experimental beginnings, Too Much Information might not be the band's most immediate album, but it affords them more possibilities than they've had since their debut.