Maxïmo Park is young. They’re good looking. They’re quite dapper when they perform in three-piece suits. And they’ve got an extensive knowledge of British music of the last 30 years. But most importantly, they’re insanely good. Sure, Franz Ferdinand, Futureheads, Bloc Party and The Kaiser Chiefs all released their albums anywhere from three months to a year before this Newcastle outfit. But does it really matter? Not a lick. To lump Maxïmo Park in with any fading trend would be condescending, as well as beside the point. A Certain Trigger is only the band’s debut, yet stands up to a level of quality that other bands spend entire careers trying to hone.
Though like-minded albums like Franz Ferdinand and Silent Alarm are products of the British isles in Geography only, A Certain Trigger is a patently British album. Like UK classics All Mod Cons, Parklife or The Queen is Dead, there’s a very distinct time-and-place feel to this record, as well as a paradoxically timeless quality and a distinct national identity. Just listen to Paul Smith’s accent — it’s so Northern and pronounced, the sort of thing these singers are supposed to shed when they sing. But paired with the angular guitar riffs, the haute fashion and refined songwriting chops, Smith comes off as more refined and distinguished, something quite contrary to The Futureheads’ snotty sensibilities and The Libertines’ fuck-all abandon.
The songs themselves are classic pop songs disguised as high-energy punk rockers. Having been spawned from a country concerned more with single charting than album cohesiveness, Maxïmo Park know how to write a fucking amazing single, without sacrificing the good of the album as a whole. As such, the first three singles are among the best out of the UK in 2005, thus far. “Graffiti” is driven by Lukas Wooller’s fiery organ notes and Duncan Lloyd’s garage rock guitar riffs, while “The Coast is Always Changing” is a life-affirming rock anthem, with Smith yelping “I am young and I am lost/every sentence has its cost!” But the real treat is “Apply Some Pressure,” a spastic, jerky post-punk rollercoaster that peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows, culminating in a hypnotic bridge that will go down in history as one of the best of all time, should anyone ever attempt to keep track. In an almost Zen-like mantra, Smith croons “What happens when you lose ev-er-y-thing/you just start again/you start all over again.”
Where some of MP’s contemporaries would be comfortable borrowing from the likes of U2 or Gang of Four, they lean more toward the likes of The Smiths and Wire, two tried-and-true, yet consistently fresh and inspiring reference points. Opening track “Signal and Sign,” as well as “Postcard of a Painting,” finds Lloyd taking a cue from the book of Johnny Marr, playing wiry, jangly riffs that pair well with the bouncy beats of drummer Tom English (hey, cool rock star name!). “Limassol,” however, is more direct in its approach, with single power chords driving the intense chorus. But the one instance in which the band really throws the listener for a loop is “Acrobat,” a nearly spoken-word shoegazer song, and the only one to surpass the 4 minute mark.
To be fair, Maxïmo Park aren’t the first of their kind. But neither were The Clash, The Kinks or David Bowie. They’ve taken an existing sound and molded it into something more advanced and compelling. A Certain Trigger is nothing, if not exciting. And it’s a near perfect album, it not spot-on.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.