Risk to Exist, Maxïmo Park’s sixth album, is a record inspired by funk and 2016 in equal measure. This isn’t the first time the band have gone political, with their 2012 release The National Health demonstrating their success at combining post-punk with social commentary. While their last release Too Much Information saw them experiment with electronic rock and psychedelia, Risk to Exist sees them venture successfully into disco and soul music without digressing too far from their rock roots.
The album’s opener ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This’ is a bluesy-funk number that isn’t afraid to address many of the key political issues from last year. Lead singer Paul Smith states that in spite of economic development many have been left behind; “you forgot to mention the fact that inequality remains,” and the song’s closing line “let’s all pretend to tell the truth. Above all I hope I’ve been of use” address the issues of fake news and misleading rhetoric. The transition from alt-rock to funk feels very natural, and the track’s more relaxed sound doesn’t detract from its strong message. Meanwhile, ‘What Equals Love?’ has a heartfelt meaning whilst also being fun to listen to, mixing synthpop and rock with disco to create a dreamy and danceable sound. The band are able to replicate this shimmering, impassioned funk in other parts of the album, including ‘The Hero’ and ‘Respond to the Feeling’, and it’s proof that while the Maximo Park are branching out into other genres they are as sharp and dynamic as ever.
This album was recorded almost entirely live, resulting in an LP that captures the band’s passion and vitality, and this tactic really comes into its own on more traditional Maximo Park tracks including ‘Get High (No I Don’t)’, an angry protest anthem against coercion, and ‘Make What You Can’, driven by one of Lukas Wooller’s signature keyboard lines. The album’s title track ‘Risk to Exist’ is a bold, percussion heavy track that also bares closer resemblance to the band’s earlier work. The song wants us to show greater compassion and respect to those migrating to Europe to escape war and persecution and asks for world leaders to “Show some responsibility!” to help those caught up in these conflicts. In addition to the song’s message of empathy and solidarity, profits from the single will go to Migrant Offshore Action Station (MOAS), a charity dedicated to saving migrant lives at sea, evidence that the band are devoted to enacting real change in the world as well as addressing the contemporary political situation.
Overall, Risk to Exist is full of new ideas and represents a substantial musical development for Maximo Park, and the band sound both confident and comfortable to creating more disco-oriented tracks. 2017 will no doubt be full of politically inspired albums, but Maximo Park’s slick sounds and sharp lyrics makes Risk to Exist one of the most important and unique.By James Baker