Review Summary: Whilst not as good as their previous efforts, Quicken The Heart is a big slab of entertaining post-punk that only gets better with time.
Newcastle based Maxïmo Park are a strange thing in this day and age, a consistent band. They stormed into the public eye with the insanely catchy The Coast Is Always Changing
in 2004, followed closely by the release of their radio friendly debut album A Certain Trigger
. Primarily a post-punk act, there is a lot more to Maxïmo Park than meets the eye. Second album Our Earthly Pleasures
dutifully expanded on the sound of their debut, doing away with the poppier elements of the music, instead containing much denser material; music for the thinking man. The calculated, layered atmosphere shown was a stark contrast from the light hearted A Certain Trigger
but nevertheless the album was just as if not more successful than its predecessor. Quicken The Heart
is the third album by the band and an album in which they strengthen their standing as one of Britain’s premier post-punk acts.
In previous albums the best way to portray Maxïmo Park in terms of sound would be a fusion of The Strokes and Silent Alarm
era Bloc Party with a definite Morrissey-esque swagger and a thick Geordie accent thrown in for good measure. To say the band have stood still would be extremely harsh, but the musical direction they take in Quicken The Heart
is akin to a combination of both their previous efforts. The pop sensibilities of A Certain Trigger
have returned but with the understated charm of Our Earthly Pleasures
. Like its predecessors it would be fair to say that Quicken The Heart
is decidedly not a boring album. From opening track Wraithlike
to closer I Haven’t Seen Her In Ages
the crisp vocal performance of Paul Smith smoothly directs the music along, while the interesting guitar riffs and tidy rhythm section provide subtle support for the effervescent front man. Maxïmo Park, and Smith in particular have always been great lyricists and it is not surprising that this hasn’t changed with this release. Lines such as: "Just another song, a faded memory. A raison d’être for the entire family." (Wraithlike
) show that Jones’ unique way with words hasn’t left and whilst there aren’t any observational quotes quite as good as: "Night falls and towns become circuit boards, we can beat the sun as long as we keep moving" (Books From Boxes
) from Our Earthly Pleasures
, the quality still remains.
Oddly appointed opening single The Kids Are Sick Again
is definitely one of the weaker tracks on the album. The slow tempo matches the vocals well but the overwhelming lack of any hooks whatsoever don’t do the song any favours especially in the chorus which drags the song down a few notches. A much better appointment for opening single would have been next track A Cloud Of Mystery
which more than compensates for the lack of a killer chorus in The Kids Are Sick Again
with a huge chorus of its own. The subtle synthesizer effects in this song add much to the song and take the burden off of the vocal/guitar dominance that is shown throughout. With a final cymbal crash the track eventually segues perfectly into the less boisterous Calm
. In fact the song transitions throughout Quicken The Heart
are brilliant and add to the excellent production to construct a thoroughly polished piece of work.
It is evident that when the musicians in the band are reading the same scripts the end product is fantastic. Roller Disco Dreams
is a great microcosm of the band at their most interesting. A nice change of pace from its less than brilliant precursor Let’s Get Clinical
the funky bass lines and evocative lead riffs make it an album highlight of the mould of By The Monument
from Our Earthly Pleasures
. Another album highlight arrives in the surprise entity of Calm
an extremely subdued track that benefits from its track placement – sandwiched between two heavier hitting tracks it offers a nice contrast and as a result shines. The soft verses build up the chorus well and the impressive vocal/guitar interplay sets up one of the best bridge’s in the album. While the majority of the album is indeed very good there are unfortunately a few exceptions. The consecutively placed Tanned
and Questing, Not Coasting
disappoint with sub-par performances given by all.
Overall Quicken The Heart
is an acceptable evolution from Our Earthly Pleasures
. Although it is often the second album that is tricky to pull off, if done well it still applies some pressure on a third album success. Where the band matured in the two years between A Certain Trigger
and Our Earthly Pleasures
they have backtracked slightly here incorporating elements of both albums in Quicken The Heart
. This may rightfully be seen as a safe option by many and while it won’t be winning any end of year awards, inQuicken The Heart
Maxïmo Park have still produced a great album that gets better the more you listen to it.
A Cloud Of Mystery
Roller Disco Dreams
Overall 3.5 Great