With its filed-down post-punk edge, Maximo Park’s Quicken the Heart is the latest in a mass of similarly minded, snappy, compact albums that British recording industry has recently been issuing like a line of action figures. Two of those were Maximo Park’s own previous work, and while this album retains the band’s limber treatment of otherwise derivative material, it also exhibits a dry aesthetic emptiness, further magnified by often questionable lyrics. Musically, Quicken the Heart hits all the marks, shaping sharp, lanky guitar lines into neat, catchy songs glittering with fancy sound effects, like opener “Wraithlike,” which uses the rising scream of an air raid siren as a climbing trellis to its chorus. It’s all smoothly efficient, yet the lyrics are suspiciously sub par, striving for the wryly literate detachment of bands that pioneered this style, but instead falling between ambiguously humorous and outright embarrassing. Lines like “It’s like dismantling/A decommissioned spacecraft/Some parts you can’t destroy” are baffling either way, and aren’t helped by a title like “The Penultimate Clinch,” which gets shouted repeatedly throughout the song, using enthusiasm to avoid the fact that it really doesn’t make any sense. On other occasions there’s no question about the aim or the effect of the lyrics. “Let’s Get Clinical” employs a beyond-tired sex-as-geography motif, with lyrics like “I’d like to map your body out/Inch by inch/North to south” and the mysterious insertion of “Let’s get clinical,” which has no real place in the context of the song besides rhyming with the equally pointless “It’s criminal.” The album is rife with these kinds of clunkers, howling missteps that break the careful flow engendered by the music. A weak handle on words doesn’t entirely damage the charm, which is reliant enough on its use of familiarly lean guitar patter that it can survive with no real focus on the lyrics. But for an album that so readily cruises along on autopilot, the absence of a satisfying lyrical presence keeps it resolutely sandwiched in the middle of the pile.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: