When the story of the early-2000s rise of indie rock is told, Maximo Park will likely be not much more than a footnote. By the time of their joyful 2004 debut, A Certain Trigger, the nouveau new-wave sound from which they were born was cresting toward passé, as a surplus of likeminded bands, both good (the Rakes, Bloc Party) and not so good (Razorlight, We Are Scientists), turned innovation into formula. That’s a shame, since the band has been turning out buzzing, laser-sighted singles like “My Velocity” and “The Kids Are Sick Again” with much greater regularity than bands far more celebrated.
While it’s not the joyous return to peak form of 2012’s The National Health, Too Much Information still marks Maximo Park as a band capable of beatific, melancholy-kissed rock that almost no one does well anymore. The first track, “Give, Get, Take,” immediately establishes that no drastic changes are ahead. A fidgeting descendant of past triumphs like “Limossol,” the song traffics in the slightly askew keyboard-and-guitar-driven new wave that is the band’s stock and trade. Yet it’s one of several tracks that convincingly demonstrate that, when the songs work, Maximo Park is so much more than a band indebted to easily identified ’80s influences. “Brain Cells” may announce its love of Soft Cell, but the band imbues this affection with its own eccentric personality. “Leave This Island” is similarly successful at merging the familiar—in this case, Depeche Mode at their most sonically mournful—with the kind of cautious optimism found in hits like “Apply Some Pressure.”
Unlike wretched poseurs like She Wants Revenge, Maximo Park isn’t content to merely pantomime the bands they love. Rather, they use their influences in a way that serves as a kind of hyper-literate auto-critique. “Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry” may be reminiscent of the Smiths, but as the title makes abundantly clear, it’s clearly by intention. Yet the lyrics evoke something quite different than the romantic fatalism of a young fabulist in love with his own sorrow, demonstrating an unshowy wistfulness that will be piercingly real to anyone limping toward middle age with the blustery aspiration of youth long since expired: “Near the Palace Hotel/Where we used to dwell/Engraved against your wishes/One of your greatest misses.”
Despite its terrible eyeball-scraping cover art, Too Much Information is easily the most reserved Maximo Park effort to date, lacking a track with the heart-swelling immediacy of “The Undercurrents” or “The Coast Is Always Changing.” In the past, the absence of an edifyingly crowd-pleasing anthem like that from a Maximo Park album might have signaled a less-than-essential entry in the band’s discography; in its place, however, resides a tonal consistency and musical flow not found since A Certain Trigger. In fact, it’s the first Maximo Park album that’s truly more than the sum of its parts. Even the title reflects a kind of stealth sophistication, subverting expectations for another oh-so-tired commentary on the dehumanizing effect of this information age. But these aren’t the whining jeremiads of a bitter old man. They’re the quiet heartbreaks and unacclaimed regrets of an unsung life, of unwanted memories still too vivid to forget.