Album Review: Paul Smith – Diagrams

Photo credit: Ivan Jones

The Maximo Park front man returns with a stellar new album – out this Friday. 

Marking the fourth release as a solo artist, Paul Smith’s Diagrams follows up 2015’s Contradictions. Alongside co-producer Andrew Hodson, of 6 Music favourites Warm Digits, he charts a course into the yearning, melancholic jangle-pop of The Go-Betweens, finding himself drawn to the literate, grunge-pop of The Lemonheads, to build a cohesive collection that pulls in his many strengths.

“I try to absorb information and filter parts that interest me into the songs, while retaining my own, singular voice. I still believe in the power of a pop song to alter someone’s day, and although this record was mostly made in a bedroom, I felt the songs would have a universal appeal.” says Paul Smith.

Released via Billingham Records, Diagrams sets its stall out as a vivid and complex album that binds the obscure and the everyday, searching for romance under stones that not many songwriters would think to turn over.

Album opener The Public Eyes gets right onto the societal issues by taking aim at the “Hostile Environment” policy adopted by the British Home Office but yet delivers upbeat melodies that are catchy as hell. The following Around And Around continues to take a magnifying glass to society by investigating the public’s relationship with the news, all set against 60’s style rock n roll music.

Lake Burley Griffin was inspired by the story of Walter Burley Griffin, an American who designed Canberra alongside his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, and is wonderfully moody. The track actually features a clarinet which adds the moodiness to this beautiful love story.

On the upbeat John, Paul Smith dives into the world of a name scribbled on the back of a toilet door, and imagines John’s story – from schooldays to falling in love. Up next, The Beauty Contest features folk singer Marry Waterson and makes you want to add the track to your road trip playlist instantly.

 

Head Figures is one of the most outstanding tracks on Diagrams. It’s extremely catchy chorus and airy guitar riffs make the listener feel elevated. Critical Mass, inspired by JG Ballard and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, is much darker again with a wonderful black sense of humour.

Diagrams finishes off with one of its most mellow songs in the shape of Your Orbit. The deep vocals and smooth guitar take you right back to a 70’s rock festival (Woodstock anyone?) – trip without the drugs included.

With this new record, Paul Smith once again showcases his stellar songwriting capabilities that continue to explore new avenues and result in the beautiful piece that is Diagrams. 

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