Paul Smith ‘Margins’ – Review

26 Oct

Maximo Park have been a non-event for a while now, they haven’t released anything exceptional (bar one or two singles) since their debut album in 2005. But although they have been stuck in a rut they haven’t tarnished their name with anything truly dire – well until now.

‘Margins’ is lead singer Paul Smith’s first solo album and it stinks. The songs themselves aren’t too bad, they’re quite melodic, often dark and intriguing and a few of these tunes genuinely have something about them. However two key aspects let the record down, namely the lyrics and the production. The lyrics are typical broken heart fare but there is a candour and embarrassing intimacy to them that makes this a very awkward listen. He is blatantly letting us read his diary and the content is clichéd, over sentimental and often plain creepy (there is a song about him wanting to watch his girlfriend through a keyhole as she is in the bath – keep it to yourself pal!). This oversight in judgment is all the more surprising as Maximo Park have shown great restraint and eye for detail with their lyrics, there was nothing to suggest that this would be such a clumsy record.

The production is the other major downfall of ‘Margins’, from the echo laden atmospherics of ‘The Crush and the Shatter’ to the squelchy vocal effects of ‘Improvement/ Denouncement’, to the cheap double tracking on ‘Strange Fiction’ this is a dreadfully produced/mixed affair. I think he was going for a homemade feel but it’s an absolute fail, it sounds tacky and bland throughout, particularly as it goes on. There is a distinct absent of angular riffs, snappy drums and catchy hooks and instead the mood is dreary and the sounds are claustrophobic. I think there is some attempt to be folksy and intricate and that pays off every now and then but most of this material is too heavy and introspective and any kind of perspective seems to have been lost. Most of these songs fade into each other and if puddles could sing they would surely sound like ‘I Wonder If’ or ‘The Tingles’.

So ‘Margins’ has made me reevaluate my feelings about Maximo Park. Before hearing this album I thought they were a band capable of greatness and I thought it would only be a matter of time before that genius manifested itself again. Now I’m not so sure, it seems ‘A Certain Trigger’ was a one-off, a fluke, ‘Margins’ certainly doesn’t suggest that Paul Smith is capable of great things. It would be a forgone conclusion were it not for the fact that the album ends with the best song on here, a nice little ditty called ‘Pinball’. Maybe there is some hope after all…



One Response to “Paul Smith ‘Margins’ – Review”

  1. CarlyG November 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Totally disagree. This album is lushy lushness.

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