Maxïmo Park

Quicken the Heart

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Maximo Park worked with producer Nick Launay on Quicken the Heart, and he steers the band away from Our Earthly Pleasures' slickness and toward a slightly rawer, guitar-based sound that recalls A Certain Trigger. Yet Quicken the Heart isn't as accessible as their debut -- not because the band is taking experimental risks, but because too often, the hooks and melodies don't jump out as they have before. "Wraithlike" is an exception, crashing in on sirens and emphatic drums, but other songs that aim for high drama fall short. "The Kids Are Sick Again" wants to be an anthem, but something -- maybe the song's surprisingly draggy tempo -- keeps it from getting there. Likewise, a lot of the fun seems to have evaporated from Maximo Park's music. While they're just as earnest as ever on Quicken the Heart, they've gotten increasingly mopey, and their heartbreak stories ("Calm," "In Another World [You'd Have Found Yourself by Now]") are less interesting. Paul Smith's words are also notably blah this time around: the awkwardly named "The Penultimate Clinch" isn't helped by rhymes like "peevish flinch" even though it has one of the most appealing choruses here. Like Our Earthly Pleasures, some of Quicken the Heart's best moments are shoved to the back of the album. "Roller Disco Dreams" mixes innocence and frustration over big, buzzy synths and an even bigger beat, and is one of the few songs here that feels like it has a real story to it; "Let's Get Clinical" lets the band's witty side peek out as it maps lust from a distance; and "I Haven't Seen Her in Ages" closes the album by flirting with happiness. Maximo Park deserve some credit for trying to move their sound forward, but nothing here clicks like A Certain Trigger's simplicity. While Quicken the Heart isn't bad, its slide into the nondescript is certainly disappointing.

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