Ok, so this is where I get to be a little bit smug. I reviewed the debut EP by The Maxims last year and thought it was great. Now I get to review their debut album which is equally great and, you know, without making direct reference to it, kind of hint at how I was already a fan and all that…
I said last time around that they’re a solid garage rock band with a heavy blues influence and hints of the ’60’s British Invasion in their sound. And while all that remains true here, they’ve come back on this release much leaner, meaner, harder. There’s more of a punk edge to this. The record was apparently recorded to tape live in a studio, no overdubs or messing about, and it shows. It has the same sort of feel to it as Static Age by the Misfits, another favourite of mine which was done in the same way.
The band are from Boston, but album opener ‘She Says, She Says’ is all out Detroit garage rock – think Detroit Cobras, Von Bondies, early White Stripes. It’s loud and it’s raw, but melodic and catchy. It has a real swagger to it. I dare you to listen to it without joining in on the “woh oh oh oooh” chorus. It’s a short one, clocking in at just over two minutes, but it sets the tempo for what follows pretty perfectly.
Track two, ‘Choppa Choppa’ is all out punk to my ears. It’s spiky and angular with a vocal that is literally spat out at you. Reminds me of the original ’70’s UK punk scene. Ten Pole Tudor spring to mind for some reason. And then we move back to the early 2000’s Detroit scene for track three ‘Shot Cold’.
‘Saturday Night is Paradise’ is fuzzier and more languid, an epic sounding track. This one is where the production values the band have stuck to are most evident: the vocals here, for example, are raw and tortured. It’s worth pointing out that the extent to which you like this record will probably come down to how fussy you are about this sort of thing. The whole album really is rough around the edges, deliberately so, gloriously so. But if you’re not used to listening to music this way then you may start to find it hard work through tracks four to seven. I’m going to suggest that’s your problem though, not the band’s. I’m heartily sick of slick production and ‘perfection’. This is the kind of thing I want – honest, raw, heartfelt. I don’t care if every single note is perfectly in tune, it’s the energy and the passion I care about. All too often that gets sucked out when everything is run through a million and one compression processes.
In any case, if you give up somewhere in the middle then the joke’s on you because you miss out on the brilliant two closing tracks. (You also miss out on the great tracks in between, but these two are especially good). ‘Lover’ is bluesier, and sounds a bit more like the songs on that EP I mentioned. The track has a deliberately simplistic set of lyrics which contribute to the hypnotic vibe it has going on. In reality it’s probably more of a vehicle for that tremendous blues guitar running through it, but that’s fine by me. I’ll bet this is fantastic live.
And then, finally, there’s ‘Mr. Winter’. Remember I mentioned the British Invasion earlier? Yep, well this is where those chickens come home to roost on this record. This could be from any time in the last fifty years or so. If you were to tell me it was a lost b-side by The Troggs or The Animals I’d hardly be surprised. It builds around a very traditional rhythm and blues riff and then takes off with a screaming vocal that is reminiscent of The Stooges. Lovely stuff.
What can I say? I love this kind of thing. I get the impression The Maxims don’t have a massive financial backing from some global record company, but they’re going out and doing it anyway. Because they have to, they’re compelled to. And the world needs oh so much more of that kind of thing. Talent is talent, it doesn’t matter what some cigar smoking exec somewhere thinks the market trend is or what the financial return might be. Rock music was never about that, and shouldn’t be about that. Well done guys. You’re providing the glimmer of hope I have that great music is still going to get made and reach my ears by whatever means it takes. Long may it, and your band, continue.
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