Paul Smith and the Intimations – Contradictions
Decent but indistinct solo effort from the ex-Maximo Park frontman
Paul Smith, the erstwhile frontman of noughties indie darlings Maximo Park, has climbed out of his comfort zone and wandered far from indie rock’s happy hunting grounds – where, one presumes, migrating herds of quirky Northern pixie girls roam free, followed by their bookish underdog suitors. A pity then, that after a four-year period in the wilderness he returns with only a handful of hunting trophies to show for his sojourn rather than a collection of original pop songs. This decent but indistinct solo record fails to amount to much more than the sum of its influences, instead proving more akin to a guided tour through the last half-decade’s musical fads.
To be fair, Smith has attempted to create a decent album of literate indie rock songs, and to that end he tries to keep a respectable distance from Maximo Park’s own brand of energetic pop. The same can’t be said for the pioneers of surf-rock, jangle pop or doo-wop, genres which Smith happily plunders with the air of a museum visitor lacking boundaries. On ‘Coney Island’ we revisit surf rock by way of The Drums and flirt with Real Estate-esque slacker rock on lead single ‘Break Me Down’, all while referencing the Go Betweens and Felt via jangle-pop guitar moments scattered throughout.
Contradictions is not without its highlights: lead single ‘Break Me Down’ is a strong, if unchallenging entry while ‘The Golden Glint’ is a pared-back melancholy gem, a rare exception to the busy, frantic songs on the rest of the album. Meanwhile ‘Reintroducing the Red Kite’ is an oddball earworm with lyrics which talk about his socially reserved girlfriend in the same terms as a common airborne predator.
Cluttered with influences and weighed down by tracks like ‘Before the Perspiration Falls’ that could serve as b-sides for his main band, it would have been for the best if the workings-out of Smith’s equations had not been left so obviously at the bottom of the page.
Out now on Billingham.