In the annals of most seasoned bands’ catalogs, there is usually an album or two that underscores the degree to which its follow-up became known as “comeback.” U2 had Pop, the Chili Peppers had One Hot Minute, and so on. While those efforts are perfectly serviceable and contain one or two bookends for a greatest hits album, their fundamental utility is arguably in presaging the greatness of All That You Can’t Leave Behind and Californication, respectively. If history is any guide, Maximo Park will release another album in 2016 – the greatness of which will be underscored by the mere “serviceability” of its most recent effort, Too Much Information.
Maximo Park have been churning out their quirky brand of college-flavored Brit-pop for the better half of the last decade, with 2012’s The National Health serving as their most likely benchmark. Too Much Information deviates slightly from the band’s beaten path, but without really breaking any new ground. There’s a steady atmosphere of post-punk throughout, but the band draws perhaps too heavily upon their influences. Try not to hear The Cure in “Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry,” The Smiths in “Give, Get, Take,” or Interpol in “Leave This Island” (and I’ll be damned if the German bonus track doesn’t sound like Devo’s “Whip It”).
These gents retain a definite knack for songwriting, and lyricist Paul Smith clearly aims to wring all the introspection out of his notebook. However, his lovelorn intelligence wears weary with compositions lacking the hooks or memorability to bolster his alcohol-induced romanticism. Poor track sequencing exacerbates the issue, as Too Much Information never settles into a proper mood, instead bouncing from synth-induced chill, to groove-heavy pop, to melancholy brooding, track to track. In this respect, the album feels like a grab-bag of the band’s process, but not a cohesive expression of their craft.
With this lukewarm addition to their catalog, Maximo Park have fortunately produced a single or two to tide us over (“Brain Cells” and “Leave This Island”) until their next effort. Overall, however, Too Much Information sets the stage nicely for a comeback. The added context of hindsight might lend some sheen to what at first seemed merely serviceable.