If there’s anything to be learned from Multiplicity, the 1996 flick with Michael Keaton (of Batman and Beetlejuice fame), it’s that quality fades with copies. “You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it’s not as sharp as…well…the original,” explains Doug Kinney No. 3 about Doug Kinney No. 4 to Doug Kinney No. 1 in the movie.
The same can be said for music, as Maximo Park makes clear on its debut, A Certain Trigger — just replace Maximo Park for Doug Kinney No. 4; the Futureheads and Bloc Party for Doug Kinney No. 3, and Pulp and the Jam for Doug Kinney No. 1. Such an equation is nearly unavoidable and wholly acceptable, but this copy of a copy is missing the very thing that made the original so irresistible: soul.
The album starts off smartly enough with three single-worthy tracks in a row. “Apply Some Pressure” nicely melds off-kilter verses with dizzying bridges, coalescing in a chorus that conveys the claustrophobia and chaos that accompanies applied pressure. This intoxicatingly woozy sound continues into the barrage of keyboards that puncture the opening of Maximo Park’s current single, “Graffiti.”
But even at its toe-tapping best, this quintet from Newcastle can’t convey a sense of passion. Singer Paul Smith croons well enough, but the words don’t seem to connect to his head or his heart; on “Going Missing,” he sings, “But now I’ve reached my limit,” without showing any strain or tension in his voice. “The Coast is Always Changing” comes off as a track that the Futureheads rejected, with its angular guitars that aren’t sharp enough and its accented vocals that aren’t endearing enough. The Doors-esque keyboard climax of “Postcard of a Painting” doesn’t reach the heights expected from such a dramatic buildup. And so on and so forth.
By “Acrobat,” the album’s second-to-last track, it is nearly impossible to determine what Maximo Park stands for; they’ve tried out several different sounds but none fit. That they were picked up by Warp, home of everything electronic, adds to this confusion, and it is with little surprise that Maximo Park flounders about as it does. Just as Multiplicity ends with a return to the original, A Certain Trigger reminds us why we like A Different Class and even late-comers such as The Futureheads in the first place.