Paul Smith – Diagrams

Paul Smith’s ability to create enthralling stories should never go unnoticed.
Label: Billingham Records
Released: 26th October 2018
Rating: ★★★

There’s a tired cliché of artists struggling with that ‘difficult second album’ but for Paul Smith – known best as the leaping vocalist of Maxïmo Park – it’s now four stellar LPs for his solo spin-off. Not bad for a humble hat-enthusiast from Billingham.

This latest offering sees another barrage of often delicately-constructed songs mix a familiar vocal presence with a surprising array of aural backdrops.

Its architect clearly takes a keen interest in the world that surrounds him, and his focus is more on reflections of society rather than him looking for internal subjects.

Those instantly recognisable North-East tones are delivered with the knowing drawl of someone who has had a career that’s spanned at least a decade in the higher echelons of their scene.

His way with words is as a poet, the mastery of the English tongue shown throughout suggests a vocabulary any journalist would love to be able to pull from.

It’s a bit rougher around the edges than Maxïmo Park’s back catalogue, yet this only adds to the character this iconic frontman can produce when not showing an abundance of on-stage energy.

Recent single ‘Silver Rabbit’ is a peak of overdriven riffs highlighting a story of somewhat pessimistic self-reflection at the arcade as ‘Syrian Plains’ brings welcome psych to the release, with Dali-esque melting guitars filling the air and bringing the track to an epic conclusion.

At times there are threats to the album’s consistency as tracks don’t quite flow as you would expect, however, this highlights a talent for absorbing the music he delves into and repurposing it in his own endearing manner.

There’s no arguing against this being the work of one of the most impressive wordsmiths of his generation. While he may perhaps be sometimes overlooked in big indie round-ups, Paul Smith’s ability to create enthralling stories should never go unnoticed.

Ciaran Steward

The May issue of Dork, featuring A. G. Cook, Djo, English Teacher, Luke Hemmings, WILLOW and more, is out now
Dua Lipa has released a new single inspired by knowing what you're getting into, 'Illusion'
Nell Mescal has released a new single about moving on, 'Yellow Dresser'