To quote Peter Doherty, in the world of British noughties indie, “the best looking, the best dressed, and the coolest people were the ones who were born to lose.” A glut of indie bands came from the time, from the sublime to the distinctly average. Some have stood the test of time; Maxïmo Park are one of those.
Formed in 2000 in Tyne and Wear, Maxïmo Park have been a presence on the scene for over 15 years. They pick up new fans with every album and tour, as well as keeping hold of their existing ones. Bringing the Sïngular Tour to Manchester Academy, they had one rule: singles only.
Maxïmo Park often falls into the label of landfill indie, exacerbated in recent memory by the spicy comments in the 2020 Vice article that caused a mini culture war. This label is not aided by the time in which the band broke through. Their poster was firmly on the common room walls in The Inbetweeners, as well as a staple on the XFM curated soundtrack, so shaking the tag off was and still is not straightforward.
‘Landfill’ suggests that the music is disposable. However, the streams of people turning out on a rainy Thursday night proved differently. The fact that they are still touring and playing impressive venues shows the interest that this band still possesses.
First up were Pip Blom from Amsterdam, who came with high energy and exhilarating hooks. The band has enjoyed success in the UK. They opened the John Peel stage at Glastonbury in 2019, and their second album Welcome Break made it into several end-of-year lists in 2021.
Their live show spanned from jangly indie pop numbers reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub to heavier, guitar-driven tunes out of the Sonic Youth songbook. Dropping their biggest hit ‘School’ mid-set without any fanfare, the tightness and expansive sound of the set was very impressive. Closing on the catchy ‘Daddy Issues’, the band progressively amped up the hook to come to a pleasing crescendo, alternating the male and female vocals.
As the lights went down, a roar from the largely 30-something audience reverberated around the room. Frontman Paul Smith, wearing with his trademark hat, ran onstage to the opening strains of 2021 single ‘All of Me.’ Afterwards, they knowingly jumped straight into fan favourite ‘The Coast is Always Changing’. Chants of pre-chorus “I am young and I am lost” came defiantly from all corners. Most of the audience were neither young nor indeed lost, but nostalgia of previous phases of their life carried it forward.
With awkward dance moves, animated use of the mic stand, and self-deprecating between-songs chat, it is hard not to be taken in by Paul Smith as a frontman. His energy translated to the crowd from what could have been a static gig, given the low energy for the support band, into a warm atmosphere. Smith, knowing his crowd, made sure to mention the band’s ties to Manchester. He stated that their single ‘Going Missing’ was originally called ‘Salford Links’, and guitarist Duncan Lloyd had links to the area, which was naturally received favourably.
The singles-only policy was adhered to throughout, bar one-half rendition of ‘Nosebleed’ in response to a fan request. The strict bangers-only policy is perfect for a band like Maxïmo Park. The rampant ‘Our Velocity’ was dropped mid-set, and met with mosh pits and top-of-your-lungs singing.
On the flipside, mellower numbers, such as ‘I Want You To Stay’ and ‘Leave This Island’, tempered and added texture to the set. Crucially, they saved ‘Apply Some Pressure’, the ferocious ode to indie angst, for the set closer. Manchester Academy reached fever pitch, harking back to the days of sweaty nightclubs and questionable 2000s fashion choices. As entertainers, Maxïmo Park are among the best.
Chants of “one more song” (and some humorous ones of “twelve more songs”) meant an encore was in order. This run closed on 2007’s ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ and 2005’s ‘Graffiti’, with both being well-known and jubilant songs. As they bid their final farewell, a sense of contentment fell around the room. They left nothing behind and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted.
Maxïmo Park are an entertaining band and they know it. They operate within their genre with spectacular ease. And, with the affability of Paul Smith as a frontman, they cross the finish line every time. You could see them doing this for many years to come, due to their consistently brilliant records and well-drilled live shows. Put them on again next year, and they are sure to be equally as charming.