Album Review: Paul Smith and The Imitations – Contradictions


Released August 21st 2015

Words: Julia Granthampaulsmith

Contradictions is the second solo album from Maximo Park front-man Paul Smith. Five years since releasing his debut, Smith has retained the lyricism and energy in his music that he is known for, all the while remaining committed to the band that saw his rise to fame little more than fifteen years ago. This album feels reflective and, in places, melancholy. Smith’s voice is less stylised than Maximo Park fans are used to; it is raw, deeper, and appears to be searingly honest.

This album is an energetic pop record and a cathartic journey which unfolds as a mix of social commentary, personal anecdotes and a nostalgia for people and places presumably close to Smith’s heart. It is charming in places, retrospective, powerful and fresh with a range of musical genres, influences and tempos. Intelligently written, impressive lyrics and irresistible melodies. Moreover, it will surely appeal to a wide ranging demographic, attracting new fans as well as those loyal followers of his band.

Smith fuses a British Indie Rock sound – at times letting hints of his Northern accent seep through- with 80’s pop such as with the trippy and nostalgic Coney Island on the 4th of July. Other songs are reminiscent of early Blur; Mezzanine Floor wouldn’t be completely out of place on Leisure or Modern Life is Rubbish for example. There is a never a dull moment listening to this album. It is as varied as it is clever, a real grower of an album and the kind of LP you will find yourself listening to repeatedly; at worst out of curiosity, at best because quite simply, it is full of brilliant, catchy tunes.

Contradictions opens with the mellow Deep End, a quick, rhythmic track describing the difficulties encountered when realising the conflict between dreams and reality. The pace and tempo of the song mimic the rapid thought processes of allowing thoughts and feelings to follow like water and true to Smith’s usual form, he makes use of imagery and poetry to create an idea of being ‘immersed in the deep end’ to portray being forced to face one’s dreams. This opening song sets the tone for the rest of the album; honest, poetic and brimming with emotion.

Break me down, the first single to be released from the album, depicts the fragility of relationships, being vulnerable and susceptible to a broken heart such as is described by the line ‘break me down, won’t be hard’, and as such is a beautifully poignant yet catchy indie-pop tune. There are irresistible harmonic instrumental passages throughout and it is hard not to sing along to this with each listen. A real stand-out track.

Other highlights include I should never know, which reminds me of David Bowie initially, as well as a bit of Manic Street Preachers with an 80s feel to it, almost Jesus and Mary Chain in places. It is a melancholy tale of desire, something everyone can identify with, and as such is part of its appeal. This is yet another song that will have you singing and dancing, Smith’s voice is both appealing and catchy on this number and is soulful as well as tuneful. A cracking pop tune. Reintroducing the red kite is another track that stands out. It’s steady beat is indicative of a journey, it is fast-paced and yet mellow, easy to listen to, and very relaxed but still poignant. An important tale of recovering from a broken relationship, it carries the message ‘when someone is gone, you find yourself’.

My personal favourite has to be All the things you’d like to be. It is very thought-provoking. It reminds me a little of One of these things first by Nick Drake, simply because it explores the nature of self-discovery. It invites us to consider how we fit into society, and depicts a bleak picture of the capitalist culture in which we find ourselves in; if you listen closely to the lyrics, ‘the office blocks and asbestos rocks’ this isn’t a song you are likely to forget in a hurry. It carries an important message and makes you think, perhaps why I like it so much.

It is clear that this is an album for anyone who needs a reflective or cathartic soundtrack in their lives. However, the real beauty of it is, it’s still Indie-pop at its best, you can take as much or as little from it as you need. There are rich layers of imagery, poignancy and nostalgia, or simply very decent pop tunes. Take from it what you will, but I doubt you will dismiss it. Those who have eagerly awaited this second solo album will surely be assured that the wait was worth it. Or if you have never of heard of Paul Smith until now, waste no more time!

Watch the video for Break Me Down here:

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