I place a huge value on the ability of a singer/band to cut the mustard in a live context. It’s often the thought of going to see a forthcoming live performance that makes me go out and buy a new CD so that I’m familiar with the stuff. And almost just as often, if I catch a band live who I think have that something different or special, or indeed just seem to be working hard at their craft, I’ll buy a CD. What I’ve often found is that the CD doesn’t match the intensity of the live performance and it will soon be given a place on the shelf to gather dust….but that’s the risk of buying on one listen….

One of the best live acts I’ve seen in recent times is Maximo Park.

I first came across them courtesy of MTV2, and in particular on the shows hosted by Zane Lowe. I loved the early singles and indeed all of their debut LP, A Certain Trigger. And I made a point of buying a ticket for the next show in Glasgow which was due to take place at the QM Union, a student-venue. Such was the demand for tickets that the gig was switched to Barrowlands, which must have a bit daunting for the band. If they were nervous or had any trepidation, it didn’t show for it was a blinding gig.

And if I wanted proof that it wasn’t a one-off, then it came a few months later when they were part of an NME tour. As the biggest band of the four in terms of chart success, it was obvious they should be the headlining act – problem was that #2 on the bill were Arctic Monkeys, the most-talked about and anticipated act to come out of the UK since the days of Oasis. Most ticket-holders were there for the support, not the headliners. It would have been easy for Maximo Park to take the money and go through the motions – but they really upped the ante and showed that while Arctic Monkeys were exceptionally good on stage, they still had a lot to learn in terms of putting on a show.

Since then, I’ve fallen out of and back in love with Maximo Park. A third gig was a let-down as I felt the band, and in particular lead singer Paul Smith was now on the wrong-side of showing-off rather than entertaining. Nevertheless, the second LP, Our Earthly Pleasures, was purchased and I soon discovered it was an just as good a collection of songs as the debut. I was then really lucky to catch the band at a tiny venue in Toronto last summer (2007) and it was just like seeing them first time around again. It was a truly stunning, adrenalin-driven and energetic performance to a half-hearted audience largely unfamiliar with the band’s songs.

Outwith their own self-financed single, Maximo Park have released a total of eight 45rpm efforts, four from each of the two albums. All of them have been toe-tappingly catchy. In many ways, the first one I ever heard, Apply Some Pressure, could at times be the favourite. But in the end, in much the same way as Bedsitter by Soft Cell is my favourite of that particular beat combo, it all comes down to an equally strong second hit single that proves that they’re not a flash in the pan:-

mp3 : Maximo Park – Graffiti
mp3 : Maximo Park – Trial And Error
mp3 : Maximo Park – Stray Talk
mp3 : Maximo Park – Hammer Horror

You’re getting all these tracks because sometimes I fall for the marketing ploys and buy CD1, CD2 and the 7” vinyl….

It was a #15 hit in May 2005.

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