24 April 2009

>>>Maxïmo Park>>>Quicken The Heart>>>
Ahh Maxïmo Park. Members of the post-Libs/Monkeys indie boom of 2005/06. One of only a three of good bands to appear from the North East in, well, forever (along with The Futureheads and The Chapman Family). And criminally underrated for as long as they've been releasing material, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I know underrated bands don't usually get placed third on the bill at Leeds Festival on the Friday, but for all Maxïmo's pop sensibility and intelligent hooks, they've yet to make much of an impact on the mainstream...well apart from being included on one SingStar game. Debut "A Certain Trigger" propelled them to indie kids hearts but follow-up "Our Earthly Pleasures" saw them switch from angular indie to a more American alternative sound but lose more than a few fans due to the lack of "hits". Third album "Quicken The Heart" is aiming to throw them back into the big leagues....

Opener "Wraithlike" was released as a free download a while back and is a jittery, lo-fi rocker which sees Paul Smith barking "Here's a song that finally you can understand!" Not the most veiled of attacks, but it's a way of getting those who wrote them off as too clever and wordy to listen up. As a whole, the track is a bit to stop-start to make any real impact. "The Penultimate Clinch" is a little better, returning to the classic Maxïmo sound, but it still manages to slip under the radar. A below par opening to the album does little to raises hopes until "The Kids Are Sick Again" starts up with pulsating keyboards and hammered drums. It provides the first real catchy moments of "QTH" with the first chorus of "I don't mind losing self respect/I've done it before.... and I'll do it again!" and the closing coda of "The kids are sick again, nothing to look forward to/They've jumped the cliff again, future sinks beneath the blue". It may take a while to get into but it's certain to be a highlight of their Reading/Leeds set this summer.

"A Cloud Of Mystery" and "Calm" provide a slowing of the pace but keep the quality high, whilst "In Another World (You'd Have Found Yourself By Now)" is a rare thing; a great wordy title with a great chorus to match it, whilst "Let's Get Clinical" and "Tanned" provides probably the dullest songs of the album and of the band's career. But just when you think it's downhill from here "Roller Disco Dreams" grabs you by the heart and throat and doesn't let go. The distorted guitars mix irresistibly with the synth riff and the lyrics are some of the best that Paul Smith has served up (example: "We shared a bed but never touched/Next time we compensated in a rush" and the stunning chorus "Oh the fireworks in Brixton/Two carousel hearts spinning/If it's a grower, why can't we take things slower/She dreams of the roller disco/Head full of curls on my pillow/If it's a grower, why can't we take things slower").

The final two tracks are a sign that Maxïmo are finding their spark once again. "Overland, West Of Suez" is an upbeat indie-rocker complete with 60s freakbeat keyboards and chugging garage rock guitars, not dissimilar to The Horrors' first album. Album closer "I Haven't Seen Her In Ages" is Maxïmo's funkiest track to date, with a bassline made for dancing to. In comparison the their back catalogue it's much more laid back and restrained, which definitely works for Maxïmo. Overall, "QTH" certainly puts the Park back on track, and whilst there may be a little too much filler for this to be a great album it points towards a fantastic future for both band and fans.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "The Penultimate Clinch", "The Kids Are Sick Again", "In Another World (You'd Have Found Yourself By Now", "Roller Disco Dreams"
FOR FANS OF: The Rakes, Pulp, The Futureheads


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