Review: Quicken the Heart – Maximo Park

It’s finally here, the third album from Maxïmo Park. And it reeks of high quality – from the music to the packing itself. It comes in a lovely reddish-brown box with southern constellations and the band and album name embossed in golden writing. Inside are two digipack things, two disks and three booklets; all of which are made of what seems to be extremely fine recycled card/paper. Oh, and mine includes Duncan Lloyd’s signature in golden ink.

The Quicken the Heart booklet contains work-in-progress lyrics, complete with scribbles and alterations. It’s a nice little insight into how the lyrics were written and edited. The other booklets contain photos for both the Newcastle Arena and California, the photos from the latter are random artistic shots taken by the band on their days off from recording.

Anyway, enough about the casing and books and lets get onto what really matters – the music. It starts off with Wraithlike – a fast, sharp guitar rip and is eventually joined by a musical siren. It’s packed full of energy and yet still manages to be one of the poorer songs on the album (and I mean that in a good way.

The simple baseline of The Penultimate Clinch adds to the incredibly catchy tune and fantastic lyrics. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album (well…along with over half the album), it also has a great structure as it builds and only has the chorus (well…it isn’t a chorus then, is it? but you know what I mean) at the end. Short and catchy.

Next is the first single – The Kids Are Sick Again. I especially love the “I’m stifled/thwarted tonight which is fine” lines. It has a nice contrast between various parts of the song and some great guitaring (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m completely making up all the musical terminology and stuff. I have no idea about what I’m talking about). I wouldn’t have picked this one for a single, but it’s still a great song nevertheless.

This one is probably my favourite – A Cloud of Mystery. The two verse types and the chorus are rather different and yet still flow together. I also have to point out that the way that Paul Smith sings “mystery” in this is…well…extremely awesome (I don’t think I know the correct word….actually, lets go for “emphasetic”).

The saddest (emotionally) song on the album is Calm, both the lyrics and music produce a feeling of upset and sadness, and yet there is still a slight glint of hope left. It has a wonderful melody and, for a “sad” song, skims along at a good pace.

“But you’ll still end up on a revolving dance floor in the middle of the river” is easily the best line of the album. In Another World (You Would’ve Found Yourself By Now) deep breath sounds angry in a caring way – like someone who’s trying to set someone who won’t listen on the right track.

The live version of Let’s Get Clinical screams action, the album version sounds completely different and whispers seduction. It has some dirty lyrics (“I’d like to map your body out”) and everything just fits together. It’s simply great how it can be interpreted differently by playing it in slightly different ways.

Fast, noisy and upbeat. Roller Disco Dreams sounded confusing at first, but as the song itself says: “If it’s a grower, why can’t we take things slower?” It’s about a girl dreaming of a roller disco under fireworks in Brixton, and is another great song (well…they all are).

The riff in this is too catchy for it’s own good. It seems to portray the wonders of a girl in the summer, despite getting sunburnt. I’m running out of made-up things to describe the music here so I’ll have to just shout something like “I effin’ love this one!” Oh…and it’s called Tanned.

Questing, Not Coasting is extremely pleasant. It’s about spending time with a loved one in a warmly-lit house while a ferocious storm is going on outside. It’s extremely cosy and very nice for listening to while laid back.

It sounds both new and 60s at the same time. Overland, West of Suez seems to be about reminiscing a friend who you haven’t seen in ages (in a totally different way to the next song). My only complaint is that some of the words are a bit hard to hear (I could not figure out what “graph paper” was supposed to be until I read it in the booklet).

Finally, we have I Haven’t Seen Her In Ages. It reminds me of Graffiti (although I prefer Graffiti…if you sing to me in French). It’s still a nice song and has a lovely melody. Overall, Quicken the Heart is a brilliant album filled with all sorts of emotions. It’s Maxïmo’s best album yet.

Also included in the package is a DVD called Monument. It’s focused around the live show that they performed at Newcastle Arena in December, and also throws in some extra bits between the songs. There’s a few videos of live performances from earlier in the year in small pubs, contrasting rather nicely with the main show. One of them even switches from the pub version to the arena version to emphasise the extra omph the music has in a big arena.

There is also a little insight in preparations to the show (it was all set up on the day) and some random footage of them moving to their new practise studio in a rusty old van.

As always, it’s the little changes that they make (or some bigger changes in the later songs when they add extra instruments) which means that it feels both new and incredibly familiar, well, if you know the songs from A Certain Trigger and Our Earthly Pleasures. The Acrobat performance is just sounds incredibly amazing, and The Unshockable a much more prominent beat that makes it better.

The stage and lighting is phenomenal. It’s extremely wide and the LED lights are perfect for every song. Plus lasers always make things better. Lasers are awesome. They also mixed in some footage from fans for some extra variety in the cameras. Great band, great performance and great production.

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