I was shocked – shocked, I say – today to hear that a commenter’s significant other found Flick The Vs boring. I’d be interested in what she thinks of Maxïmo Park’s latest, though I suspect I already know: not only because the band are one of those which manage to make a go of it without being either that popular or that fashionable, but also because their third album, Quicken The Heart, gives us nothing new.
When the band released their first album, A Certain Trigger, there was no reason to think that they would enjoy much more longevity than, say, The Futureheads: the album was all very well and good, and would later grant Mark Ronson one of his better Version moments (Apply Some Pressure, which pretty unimaginatively used, er, Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith as lead vocalist), but it didn’t feel like much more than some Gang of Four fans making a creditable record. The record’s follow-up, Our Earthly Pleasures, gave the band a stadium sheen, however, and its poppier sensibility granted them a greater lease of commercial life.
Predictably, then, Quicken The Heart opens with ‘Wraithlike’, a ‘Girls Who Play Guitar’s found at the back of the charity shop, smelling of mothballs next to the old Yahtzee boxes. It isn’t that the new record is bad – it’s more that it doesn’t try to do anything better, or even just more freshly. Our Earthly Pleasures was a natural progression from A Certain Trigger, and if neither record was about to win any prizes for originality, both were held together by a lot of vim and Smith’s charisma. But on this third effort, the band return to angular riffs and left-field-but-not-weird lyrics which feel like dog-eared versions of what we got before. You don’t turn to Maxïmo Park for the cutting edge, but at least they used to release a record which didn’t sound like anything else released in the last few years; Quicken The Heart sounds exactly like a record released in the last few years, except not quite as good.
The album has highpoints: closing track ‘I Haven’t Seen Her In Ages’ feels like the something familiar-but-new we’ve come to expect from the band, and both ‘The Kids Are Sick Again’ and ‘Let’s Get Clinical’ approach the immediacy of previous efforts … but, ultimately, what listener wouldn’t rather just stick on one of their previous records? This one’s a bit of a waste, really.