Monday, July 16th, 2007
A Certain Trigger
Sometimes I think I’m not only out of step with UK music, but living in a mirror universe. For example, Bloc Party’s first album was met with hosannas from everyone but only mild appreciation from me, but the follow-up was widely considered a big disappointment by most but not me – I love it. Similarly, Maximo Park’s sophomore effort Our Earthly Pleasures is doing middlingly at best, critically-speaking after their debut A Certain Trigger and even the b-sides companion volume Missing Songs were met with much more effusive praise. Needless to say, I like the new record much more than the first one.
I like how Paul Smith’s manic, cocksure attitude on the first record has been tempered a bit and maybe made a bit more desperately romantic. Musically things aren’t as constantly breakneck as they were but Maximo is just as adept at the slower numbers as the fast and for them, slow is a relative term – there are no piano ballads. For my money, everything that made Trigger appealing is present on Pleasures along with so much more. To everyone grousing that the new record isn’t as good as the first, it’s called growth – put on “Our Velocity” and tell me it’s not a good thing. But just in case anyone was afraid that this maturity thing would dampen their live show, fear not. I’d never seen Maximo live before but I don’t think it’d have been physically possible for them to have been more energetic in the past for Smith would surely have spontaneously combusted long ago.
Support for this tour were Los Angeles’ Monsters Are Waiting, who I’d seen at the past two SxSWs. While this was the best setting of the three, previous experiences being early afternoon sets to near-empty bars, I still felt a bit bad for the band, always having to win over an audience from scratch. And it’s not that they don’t have the goods to do so – I quite like their theatrically bipolar new wave synth-pop and Annalee Fery is a sexy and charismatic frontwoman – but I’ll bet that in front of a hometown crowd or even one with a decent number of proper fans, they’re excellent live. In Toronto they were merely pretty good, never quite getting into high gear, but still got a warm response from the audience. The couple of new songs showcased sounded really good as well, leaning more towards the power pop end of their debut Fascination rather than the twitchy.
Due to curfew – the Mod Club had to get the dance club contingent in by 10PM – Maximo Park was given just over an hour to work their magic to the sold out club but they made the most of it, cramming 16 songs into their set as well as a good number Paul Smith leaps off the drum riser and a few scissor kicks for good measure. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a frontman with as much energy as Smith – the man was a non-stop dynamo, bounding around the stage and alternately treating the mic stand like a forbidden lover, mortal enemy or lightsabre, whipping the crowd into a frenzy but (thankfully) never preening or coming off as attention-needy. He was simply there with a bowler hat full of rock to dole out and by god, he was going to dole it.
The rest of the band was quite content to lay back and let Smith take the spotlight, opting to concentrate on churning out the super-tight and tightly-wound jangle rock that kept Smith hopping through a set that was heavily weighted towards Pleasures (nine of fifteen songs total). Keyboardist Lukas Wooller physically got into it a little more than his bandmates but for all intents and purposes, the show belonged to Smith and so did the crowd. Particularly the ladies, judging from the shrieking, and I can’t say as I blame them – when that British mojo gets working, it’s something to behold. Throw in the bowler hat and it’s game over.
The band talked to The National Post about getting pelted onstage with beer, shoes and soccer jerseys. Lovingly, of course. The tour, of which Toronto was the fourth show, continues through the end of the month. See them.
Photos: Maximo Park, Monsters Are Waiting @ The Mod Club – July 14, 2007
MP3: Monsters Are Waiting – “Nobody”
MP3: Monsters Are Waiting – “Christine”
Video: Maximo Park – “Our Velocity” (YouTube)
Video: Maximo Park – “Books From Boxes” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Ha Ha” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Nobody” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Last Goodbye” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Fascination” (YouTube)
MySpace: Maximo Park
MySpace: Monsters Are Waiting
Backtracking to Bloc Party (was talking about them earlier, wot), they recorded an acoustic session for Spinner’s Interface which you can watch and download while Vice also has some acoustic tracks available to grab from a session for Boston’s FNX back in May. There’s also a new video available for “The Prayer”. Bloc Party are in town September 28 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Concert news – The Noisettes have a date at Lee’s Palace September 19, Voxtrot are back in town on the 9th of October for a show at the Mod Club, French electronic duo Justice are at the Republik in the heart of clubland on October 18 and Pitchfork has the The New Pornographers at the Phoenix on October 21 rather than the 20th, thus clearing up the conflict with Do Make Say Think. They also have Benjy Ferree opening up along with Emma Pollock.
The Daily Show‘s Rob Corddry annotates his life in music for Filter.