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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