"Nature Always Wins is a multi-layered album that speaks volumes about the concept of change and the destruction of nature, done so eloquently that it feels like a Seamus Heaney poem."
Maxïmo Park - Nature Always Wins | Album Review
There is space within the dynamic soundscape of Nature Always Wins that offers a breath of fresh air, illustrating the power of all things natural - tackling themes of society, parenthood and change during a constantly changing world.
Two years since their last release, the Newcastle-born, alternative rock band, Maxïmo Park have their latest album, Nature Always Wins, as their newest musical chapter. An album that feels like an ode to 80s punk and rock, with buffed-up synths, anthemic vocals and guitar melodies intertwined with vocal harmonies. The music slightly strays away from the band’s prior work, with their previous studio album Risk To Exist having a jazzy dance-like air interspersed in the musical fabric. With the separation of the band’s keyboardist, Lukas Wooller, it’s only natural that the jazzed-up harmonic piano chords are less than present in their newest album. Therefore, the musical fabric has shifted focus, feeling more reminiscent toward days-gone-by; featuring nods towards the likes of David Bowie, with maddening synths; and The Sex Pistols, with their rebellious anthemic verses. The concept of change is the most prevalent aspect of this album, and the word ‘change’ undoubtedly comes to mind when thinking about the world’s current climate today. Nature Always Wins is a triumph when epitomizing the concept of change. This album encompasses the last few years of the band’s personal lives - where members have since left the band, as well as current members embarking on new chapters of parenthood. Naturally, the musical soundscape of the album has changed with them, though still retaining the staple concepts of current societal issues within their lyrics that are associated to the band.
Punching you into the musical world of Nature Always Wins is the first track, Partly of my Making; rich, detailed and singing instrumentals that adds a sense of liveliness into the mix. The arching melodic structures and stabbing keyboard chords are instantly recognisable as Maxïmo Park staples. The song is a killer opening to the album’s story, promising striking sweeps of flair and style that shows a subtle growth from their prior work. There is a juxtaposition between nature and the unnatural in this song. You can hear a lilting violin overarching the breaks between the vocal lines; however, everything natural about the violin has been executed by using a synth violin - drawing on the blur between the natural and the unnatural, showing that there is a conflict with nature. The echoey vocals provide a sense of space and distance, the only natural sound in the mix being drawn away from the listener. This instantly draws your attention to the overall themes of the album: the battle between nature and the unnatural, and encompassing that: change itself. There is perhaps a sense of dramatic irony here, as we know from the album title that ultimately - Nature Always Wins.
We are then stopped in our tracks with the following track: Versions Of You. A slower, and much sleepier track provides a melancholy atmosphere that poses quite the contrast to Partly Of My Making. The arching and lilting melodies that soared over the vocals in the track prior have now become much more static, allowing more focus on the lyrical artistry. A song that very much epitomises the concept of change. Versions of You tells a story of regret, nostalgia and yearning for the past.
There is a tonal shift within the album by the time we reach Meeting Up. The heavy reverb, delays and echoes used in the production adds an immense space to the track that feels dream-like, enhanced by the frills and added sound effects that blend into the soundscape of the track. Meeting Up is one of the tracks on the album that feels the most inspired to 80s punk and rock. The softer - almost spoken - vocals in the beginning feels reminiscent of David Bowie; the sound effects and heavy post-production work, such as the use of reverb, as well as doubled vocals are iconic features of the Space Odyssey era from the 60s through to the 80s. The song ultimately punctuates the album, serving as an interlude that offers breathing space to make way for the second half of the musical story. The ending of the track is left with just a piercing ‘heartbeat’ that breathes life into the latter part of the album.
Child Of The Flatlands was the first single released for the album back in September 2020, yet it is placed at the end of the album’s story. This track feels the most similar and reminiscent to the band’s earlier works, with jazzed-up rhythmic jumps and clashing jazz chords embellishing the harmony of the track. The track takes you on a walk through a once rural town with horses and a fairy-tale castle (the lyrical choices creating a magical and fantastical air on this quaint rural town). However, now the the bright lights have appeared, disrupting the sleepy countryside with new houses stretching out the town. A sign of modern Britain eating up the lavish countryside and capitalising on its worth. Sound effects have been utilized to bring to life this town and the listener being there. You can hear rubbish clanging, a river overflowing with litter that impedes against nature. Towards the end of the track, the harmony begins a descending progression - the town descending into destruction. The vocals, unlike in the rest of the album’s songs, bends to mimic the melodic lines, perhaps suggesting the breaking point of human destruction and how nature will ultimately win.
Nature Always Wins is a multi-layered album that speaks volumes about the concept of change and the destruction of nature, done so eloquently that it feels like a Seamus Heaney poem. The album resonates with the listener on a broader spectrum, leaving it up to them to find their own meaning behind each song. It’s a personal experience listening to this album, especially as the band progresses their work into more subtle and ambiguous lyrics. It will leave you feeling nostalgic of days-gone-by, questioning the world with its issues, and most importantly: sticking a good Bowie album on afterwards.
With the album set for release this Friday (26/02/2021), you can listen to the latest single, rediscover their music on Spotify, pre-order the album here, and be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the latest news.