2004 will go down as the year that indierock officially broke into the mainstream. The first season of The O.C. was well underway, Garden State was melting hearts, “Float On��� became the anthem that would not die, and the British press was hyping the hell out of the little Scottish band that could, Franz Ferdinand. The scene bubbling up in the UK was poised to be just as huge, and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, which became achingly clear when Warp—an electronic label known for acts such as Autechre and Squarepusher—signed Maxïmo Park.
Whereas a few years earlier bands were inevitably linked to Joy Division or Gang of Four, this new wave—of, well, angular new wave—saw influences ranging from Joseph K to XTC to Orange Juice. Musically, Maxïmo Park aren't much different than their counterparts, with songs that rely on rigid guitars, sharp drumming, and atmospheric keyboards. But they do have a secret weapon in frontman Paul Smith. With a penchant for writing intellectual, self-deprecating lyrics that can make most angst-ridden teens swoon, his energy and thick accent help distinguish the band from a clusterfuck of similar acts.
When indie finally broke through, Maxïmo Park was dressed for success, but sadly, success never came. With the blink of an eye, the British scene that was going to change everything just sort of disappeared. Bands released follow-up albums (including Maxïmo Park's fantastic Our Earthly Pleasures) and although these records were every bit as exciting as their debuts, fans and critics stopped caring, creating a collective sophomore slump.
But flying under the radar, as Maxïmo Park now seems to be doing, is exactly the spot they need to be in. Remember the Brit-pop boom of the '90s? The eternal question was which juggernaut is better, Blur or Oasis? The correct answer then, and now, is still Pulp. Rather than get caught up in the hype, Pulp stayed their course and became kings of the B-team. This is now where Maxïmo Park sits, on the outskirts of a fading scene, ready to claim their throne.