After struggling with diminishing returns on their last two albums that, outside of their cracking singles, I didn’t enjoy as much as their core opening three, the Park are back on form with this surprisingly political sixth entry in their discography that appears to be the soundtrack to a general election they wouldn’t know was being called at the time of recording.
‘Risk to Exist’ boasts eleven core tracks that flow well from one another, starting with the funky swagger of ‘What Did We Do to You to Deserve This?’ with its catchy chorus-led question. It’s superseded by the anthemic second track and sophomore single ‘Get High (No, I Don't)’ that already feels like a confirmed entry in their eventual greatest hits, with its addictive base line, progressive bridge and live-friendly chorus.
‘What Equals Love’ ventures into the closest they ever get to pop with its bouncy, piano-enthused chorus and mathematical allegories. Lead single and titular track ‘Risk to Exist’ comes in at number four, it’s gun-like guitar riff, sing-along style and poppy chorus winning over before you have a chance to listen to the lyrics heavily focussed on the treatment of Syrian Migrants, all coming together to form a radio-friendly hit with a message.
‘I’ll Be Around’, with a hefty synth vibe, is another favourite of mine on the album and it’s hooky line of ‘with a government that’s out of touch’ stands out as a sly dig slotted into what seems to be a love song. ‘Work and Then Wait’ is another strong entry, once more with musical swagger and some well composed lyrics, alongside some top riffs fighting within.
‘The Hero’ switches up elements of electro-funk in the background and lifts up the political lyrics a little more, the chorus being surprisingly catchy in its indie vibe. Musically ‘The Reason I Am Here’ really works but it’s the lyrics that once more grab you, and though ‘Make What You Can’ and ‘Respond to the Feeling’ are good but don’t feel quite as great the album redeems itself with a gentle and noteworthy closer in the form of ‘Alchemy’ with a joy of a chorus.
For fans who slap some extra cash for the bonus disc get some nice extras. The opening bonus tracks ‘My Sharp Tongue’ and the electronic ‘A Brief Dream’ are more interesting curiosities but the throbbing ‘All Been Done Before’ feels like an unfair casualty of the main LP. The rest of the extras are made up of acoustic or stripped back versions of four of the best tracks on the album which are well worth hearing.
Maximo Park may not quite have surpassed their incredible second release with ‘Risk to Exist’ but it’s certainly an album on the upturn from the last two, with plenty to enjoy and some really stand-out songs. (7.5/10)