Quicken the Heart, released on 6 May 2009, is the third album of Newcastle indie rock band Maxïmo Park, debuting at #6 on the UK Album Charts and receiving generally good reviews.

It was released on Warp Records on vinyl, standard CD and special edition CD/DVD pack with a photo booklet called October California, with photos from recording sessions. I own the latter.

"Here's a song that finally you can understand, a minor statement meant to counteract the bland - a list of wraithlike things that quicken the heart" - Wraithlike

Track listing (italics denote single releases)

  1. Wraithlike - 2:29 (Lloyd/Smith)
  2. The Penultimate Clinch - 2:36 (Lloyd/Smith)
  3. The Kids Are Sick Again - 3:00 (Lloyd/Smith/Wooller) - released May 4, 2009
  4. A Cloud of Mystery - 3:07 (Smith/Wooller)
  5. Calm - 2:59 (Lloyd/Smith)
  6. In Another World (You Would've Found Yourself By Now) - 2:59 (Lloyd/Smith)
  7. Let's Get Clinical - 3:52 (Smith/Wooller)
  8. Roller Disco Dreams - 3:27 (Lloyd/Smith)
  9. Tanned - 3:33 (Smith)
  10. Questing, Not Coasting - 3:41 (Lloyd/Smith) - released July 13, 2009
  11. Overland, West of Suez - 2:46 (Lloyd/Smith/Tiku/Wooller)
  12. I Haven't Seen Her in Ages - 3:00 (Lloyd/Smith)
  13. (UK iTunes bonus track) Lost Property - 3:11 (writer(s) unknown as I don't have this track, would guess Lloyd/Smith)

Album Credits

Maxïmo Park are:

Paul Smith - lead vocals
Duncan Lloyd - guitar, Bass VI
Lukas Wooller - keyboards
Archis Tiku - bass
Tom English - drums

Producer: Nick Launay
2nd engineer/editing/production assistant: Adam 'Atom' Greenspan
Mastered by: Tim Young
Design: Barry Smith
Photograms (the cool star-map things used for the album cover, I think): Susie Needham
Recorded October 2008 at Hesby Street, Los Angeles.

The album is dedicated to the memory of Jason Boas, a music accountant who worked for the band before his death from pancreatic cancer in November 2008. Their manager, Colin Schavierien, described Boas as “Jason was not only a dear friend but a great colleague and a uniquely charismatic human being."1

Monument DVD Credits

Made by Film Bee (Chris Bate, Sarah Bouttell, Debbie Bower, Mat Fleming, Ilana Mitchell).
Recorded by Kieran Walsh of Britannia Row Productions.
Mixed by Dave Maughan and authored by The Pavement.
Instrumental compositions "Please Don't Ask Me" and "Green Street" written and performed by Duncan Lloyd.

Show credits:
Jen Nendick - Cello
Lucy Gilbert - Violin
Pete Gofton - Vibraphone
John Beattie - Trumpet

Phil Woodhead - Live Camera Director
Neil Reeves - Tour Manager
Ivan Kushlik - Production Manager
Scott Fyfe - Stage Manager
Chas Cole - Guitar Tech
Richard Geduld - Backline Tech
Trevor Gilligan - FOH Engineer
John Dodkin - Monitors
Stevie Marr - LD

Design: Barry Smith
Photography: Dan Brady

So is it good?

In my view, yes. The riffs remain as infectious and fun as the previous two albums. Maxïmo Park have always seemed like the odd one out in the British indie rock resurgence of the 2000s - Northern-accented and punchy like the Arctic Monkeys and the Kaiser Chiefs, but with rather more intelligent and introspective lyrics and unusual rhythms, written by a dancing frontman who's been compared to Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker.

"Billboards evanesce under regular beams of light, toothpaste smiles don't seem so bright" - The Kids are Sick Again

There was always a sense in previous albums of being very strongly tied to, and yet somewhat repulsed by, Newcastle. "Nothing works round here", remarks Smith in I Want You to Stay, while By the Monument describes a hopeless wait for someone at the city's Earl Grey Monument. The album's lead single, The Kids Are Sick Again (released 4 May 2009), evokes a similar malaise - Smith explains2 that it refers to the effect of advertising on modern youth.

Smith suggests in the accompanying DVD that this is due to the band members all having lived in Newcastle, but none being born there. The idea also appears in their evocation of faraway places - Limassol on ACT, Russian Literature to some degree on OEP and now Overland, West of Suez. Smith describes Limassol as being a stand-in for a situation where you'd rather be far away, anywhere but where you are.

"Why can't we always meet under a cloud of mystery?" - A Cloud of Mystery


Otherwise, the lyrics tend to deal in the usual Maxïmo Park way with complex and broken relationships. The sense of general malaise, and of external factors limiting peoples' choices, is still there. This isn't really the place for a full track-by-track analysis, but there is one on Drowned in Sound3. Most of the criticism focused on the failure to break new ground, seemingly a common problem for third albums at this point, and to some degree that's true.

So how is that DVD? They can be something of a mixed bag, speaking as someone who bought the special edition of You Could Have It So Much Better only to find stuff I could have got on the internet and didn't really feel any need for. Well, it's actually really rather good. It's a 68-minute long film, based around a show at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena on 15 December 2007. As well as showcasing some fantastic live performances, often with glorious light and laser accompaniment from that show (as the name implies, By the Monument is a particular highlight), it has grainy old black-and-white film of some little pub gigs in early 2007, which adds a certain variety to the whole thing. As well as these, there are interviews with band members and footage of their move to a new studio, so one gets something of the personality behind the songs and the journey of the band through that year.

However, what's missing is, of course, everything MP did since 2007. It seems a little odd to have a QTH DVD with nothing on it from QTH, one which in fact dates from when their second album was new. On the other hand, the DVD effectively only cost me £2, and it is in all other respects very good. (Especially Smith's bizarre on-stage dancing.)

So, to summarise: if you like fun yet clever indie rock, you should probably buy this, and you should also enjoy the special edition.

"In another world you'd have found me by now, but you'll still end up on a revolving dancefloor in the middle of the river" - In Another World (You Would've Found Yourself By Now)


Sources and further reading

My main sources are the album/DVD itself and the other place. Other sources:

1http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?storyCode=1036144&sectioncode=1
2http://www.nme.com/news/maximo-park/39053
3http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4136574

Professional Reviews

Drowned in Sound (6/10): http://drownedinsound.com/releases/14409/reviews/4136853
The Guardian (3/5): http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/may/08/maximo-park-quicken-the-heart
NME (8/10): http://www.nme.com/reviews/maximo-park/10433
The Observer (2/5): http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/apr/19/maximo-park-album-review
Pitchfork (5.5/10): http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13007-quicken-the-heart/
Spin (3.5/5): http://www.spin.com/reviews/maximo-park-quicken-heart-warp

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