Plumbiferous Media

Quicken the Heart - Maxïmo Park

May 14th 2009
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Quicken the Heart - Maxïmo ParkMaxïmo Park
Quicken the Heart
Score: 43

Maxï­mo Park, native of New­cas­tle, is made up of a rel­a­tive­ly stan­dard arrange­ment of instru­ments: vocals, gui­tar, key­board, bass, and drums. But stan­dard does­n’t only describe the instru­men­ta­tion; Maxï­mo Park is fair­ly gener­ic Brit/Alt Rock. How­ev­er, while the first two albums the band pro­duced were also gener­i­cal­ly decent, Quick­en the Heart seems to have sunk a cer­tain degree in quality.

Few prob­lems are notice­able in the instru­ment lines. The drum line often over­whelms the oth­er instru­ments, but it remains inter­est­ing. The bass is hard to hear, but not par­tic­u­lar­ly bad, and the rest remains some­where in the mid­dle range of quality.

Where Quick­en the Heart real­ly suf­fers is when larg­er ele­ments, phras­es, and track sec­tions are con­sid­ered. There seem to be two types of tracks on Quick­en the Heart: the very gener­ic tracks, and the more exper­i­men­tal tracks. The gener­ic tracks are not par­tic­u­lar­ly bad, but most of them are so bland that they become entire­ly unin­ter­est­ing, though Maxï­mo Park tries to mix it up by using odd rhythms in tracks such as “Wraith­like.” And even though the gener­ic tracks are quite lack­lus­ter, the exper­i­men­tal tracks will have you yearn­ing for the gener­ic tracks to return. These tracks, which most­ly occur start­ing with “Let’s Get Clin­i­cal” through to “Over­land, West of Suez,” have dis­joint­ed short seg­ments that do not con­nect to each oth­er, and do not form an over­ar­ch­ing pat­tern, result­ing in tracks that can become very tedious.

Paul Smith’s thick, rather heav­i­ly accent­ed vocals are cer­tain­ly capa­ble of cre­at­ing the back­bone of Quick­en the Heart, but rather than lack­ing qual­i­ty, they lack vari­ety. While Smith’s vocals show intent, they nev­er ful­ly express any emo­tion, and they remain rather unmov­ing. They’re there­fore not espe­cial­ly grip­ping, an issue which becomes clear on the sol­id but cer­tain­ly not excel­lent “Wraith­like” and con­tin­ues through the album. The occa­sion­al vocal effects and mod­u­la­tions, such as those on “The Kids Are Sick Again,” aren’t well planned and cer­tain­ly don’t suc­ceed in mak­ing the vocals more inter­est­ing among a lack of move­ment in vocal style. Over­all, Smith isn’t a bad singer, but he’d cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit from a bit more planning.

While the lyrics of Quick­en the Heart are a bit gener­ic and not ter­ri­bly notable, it must be said for Maxï­mo Park that they’ve man­aged to write lyrics which seem quite suit­ed for Smith’s par­tic­u­lar vocal style. The lyrics fluc­tu­ate between such mediocre imagery as “bury me like dan­ger­ous waste” and “the com­fort­ing ache of the sum­mer hol­i­days” to deep­er phras­es like “we can’t fall from this world” and “we’re gonna wash our­selves in sin.” This has the effect of pro­vid­ing occa­sion­al inter­est­ing phras­ing amidst an album most­ly pop­u­lat­ed by inter­change­able expressions.

Quick­en the Heart isn’t an espe­cial­ly good or bad album. It man­ages to avoid both seri­ous flaws and strengths, there­by falling square­ly in the mid­dle of the range. Smith’s voice is decent, but not great. The lyrics are most­ly gener­ic. The instru­men­tals have occa­sion­al inspired moments, but are usu­al­ly mediocre or worse. It’s hard to shake the feel­ing that, instead of improv­ing or wors­en­ing, Maxï­mo Park is steadi­ly mov­ing along the mid­dle path.

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