...unexpected flashes of pure pop class...
Litero-pop Geordies [a]Maximo Park[/a] have never even played Paris before, but already frontman Paul Smith is the talk of the town. “Do you know who’s playing Ian Curtis in that new Joy Division biopic?” he asks when we meet him at hip nightspot Nouveau Casino.
Er no. Is it Jude Law?
Paul shakes his head, puzzled: “No, it’s me apparently.”
Ever since his band strode onto the continent it seems, zealous post-punk fans have been stopping Paul in the street, asking whether or not he’s the singer in [a]Maximo Park[/a] and then congratulating him on his new film role.
“It’s very flattering,” laughs Paul, “but it’s the first I’ve heard of it!”
It’s hard not to chuckle along at the idea of this camp, chirpy northerner with ridiculous hair being lined up to play one of the most tortured and iconic figures in recent music memory. But then he gets onstage and the rumours of Paul’s mistaken identity suddenly seem less far-fetched. Of course, [a]Maximo Park[/a]’s lurid art pomp and all-knowing quips are the precise mathematical opposite of Joy Division’s bleak, ghostly drama but there’s definitely a strange familiarity between the two frontmen.
Smith, like Curtis, is a master of uncomfortable captivation. His squirm-inducing star turn is that he can simultaneously engross and repel. Like Jarvis Cocker before him, he spins tales of twisted perversions (“I’ll do graffiti if you sing to me in French” – ‘Graffiti’; “I testify, to hide my guilty feelings/I must confess, I’d like to be caught stealing” – ‘Apply Some Pressure’) and dark inadequacies (“I sleep with my hands across my chest and dream of you with someone else” – ‘Going Missing’) with just enough eccentric charm. After all, there aren’t many other men who can be forgiven for reading a leather-bound book mid-set or scissor-kicking their way through their soundcheck (yes, we saw it with our own eyes).
As the Kaiser Chiefs are to Franz, so [a]Maximo Park[/a] are to The Futureheads: not necessarily as clever or daring but a great deal of uncomplicated fun. Between stilted, GCSE French banter, ‘Apply Some Pressure’ and imminent single ‘Graffiti’ are perfectly crafted indie disco anthems in waiting. And if songs like ‘The Night I Lost My Head’ are surface angles and very little depth, then the romantic new wave melancholy of ‘Going Missing’ or ‘Limassol’’s super-suave Bryan Ferry-isms are unexpected flashes of pure pop class. Paul might not be the next Ian Curtis on stage or screen, but that doesn’t mean [a]Maximo Park[/a] aren’t going to be stars.