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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Kids Are Sick Again

Review of Maximo Park's Quicken The Heart

Photo via BeboBeboThough it came out back in May, I had intended to hold off on reviewing Maximo Park’s latest Quicken The Heart until next month when they were scheduled to play Lee’s Palace, but seeing as how they’ve just cancelled the whole North American tour – first The Charlatans, now Maximo, it’s been a bad week for Anglophiles over here – that seems a bit pointless. The other reason I was procrastinating on putting thoughts to paper (such as it were) was that I wanted to give it time to grow on me. Because if I’d tossed off a review when I first got a copy of the album back in the Spring, it probably wouldn’t have been too kind.

Here was an album that I’d been quite looking forward to from a band that had a pretty decent track record – though I was one of the few who preferred the follow-up Our Earthly Pleasures over their debut A Certain Trigger, both were undeniably solid records and even the b-sides compilation Missing Songs was better than many bands’ proper albums. So why did Quicken seem to drift by without leaving much impression at all? Best I can come up with is this.

Maximo Park made their name with wonderfully hyperactive and angular post-punk tunes served up with a healthy dose of melodicism and literate, heartfelt lyricism. Though the sharp edges were smoothed out a bit for the second record, they could still cut and the hooks and anthemic delivery more than compensated. On Quicken, however, the balance tilts too heavily towards articulating singer-songwriter Paul Smith’s emotional issues and the finished product just sags under the weight. Rather than lean and nimble as they are at their best, the songs feel like they’re distended to accommodate the words and while there’s still some solid melodies and hooks, they’re just not big enough this time out. Extended listens over the Summer have softened my opinion of the record as there’s certainly decent songs on offer, but the absence of an irresistible single or two to prop the whole thing up is keenly felt.

Even so, there wasn’t any doubt that they’d put on a good show – their last visit in 2007 was killer – so the fact that they’ve nixed this jaunt is a bummer, regardless of how good the last record is. Here’s hoping they’re good to their word and make it up in 2010.

MP3: Maximo Park – “Wraithlike”
MP3: Maximo Park – “Let’s Get Clinical”
Video: Maximo Park – “Questing, Not Coasting”
MySpace: Maximo Park

Speaking of cancellations, here’s one that apparently was and then wasn’t. For The Records pointed out that a September visit from Micachu had appeared briefly on their MySpace and then disappeared – and some digging revealed this piece at the Phoenix New Times which seemed to confirm that a tour had been planned and then canned. But apparently not the whole thing – Micachu & The Shapes will indeed be in town on September 29 for a show at the El Mocambo, where they totally impressed back in July. Tickets are $13 in advance.

MP3: Micachu – “Lips”

The Times talks to members of The xx about the possibility of the school that they and numerous other current UK artists attended closing its doors while Tourdates.co.uk asks them about their taste in covers. The xx will release their debut XX on October 20 and play the Phoenix on December 2.

That gig is in support of Friendly Fires, who are the subject of interviews with The Advertiser and The Guardian.

Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale tells The Guardian about the heartbreak that informs the whole of their new album First Days Of Spring, out domestically on October 6. He also contributes a piece about creating the film component of the record and there’s another interview at I Like Music. Fall North American tour dates are forthcoming – in the meantime, check out the first video and grab the title track courtesy of The Times.

MP3: Noah & The Whale – “The First Days Of Spring” (.zip)
Video: Noah & The Whale – “Blue Skies”

Bat For Lashes will be releasing a deluxe edition of Two Suns that comes with a documentary DVD and eight bonus tracks. Well, I suppose if you’re going to milk the fan for every penny they’re worth, you may as well offer some value. The new package is out September 7 in the UK with North American and worldwide release dates forthcoming – assuming the DVD will have various video formats and regions, fans are recommended to wait for their own domestic release before buying. The Georgia Straight has an interview with Natasha Khan.

JAM, Canada.com Billboard talk to Arctic Monkeys about their new album Humbug, out today. They’re at the Kool Haus on September 29.

Elvis Costello may be in town this Friday night at stately Massey Hall, but Exclaim reports that an upcoming series of live bootleg reissues – I guess they’ve finally given up on re-re-re-re-releasing his studio albums – will kick off with Elvis’ oft-bootlegged 1978 appearance at T.O.’s El Mocambo. Live at the El Mocambo was previously released as part of the 2-1/2 Years box set but will finally see a wide release on its own as of September 29. What do you think the odds of Declan snarling, “these guys got the right idea they’re standing UP” on Friday are? Yeah, not great. And oh yeah, happy 55th birthday Dec.

MP3: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Radio Radio” (live at the El Mocambo)

The National Post talks to Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, who will be playing day one of V Fest this Saturday at the Molson Amphitheatre.

And playing day two will be Mew, whose new album No More Stories is out today and who are featured in a Daytrotter.

And speaking of V Fest this weekend, the schedule is up and everyone who was anxious about possibly losing their seats in running between stages can relax – pretty much everyone is playing the main stage. Set lengths have surely been truncated a bit relative to what they’d have been with a proper two-stage setup at Burl’s Creek, but they’re still pretty reasonable. And I have to say I’m pleased to see that both Nine Inch Nails and Pet Shop Boys are playing back to back because if there are two fanbases that need to be mashed together, its theirs. And if anyone is wondering, the forecast currently calls for 10 to 15 mm of rain on Saturday and 5 mm on Sunday, though the Saturday forecast dropped from 40mm in the last 15 minutes so it’s probably not too reliable. However if it proves true, everyone moaning about the move to the Amphitheatre may find themselves thankful for the canopy. Those on the lawns will still find themselves wet.

Finally, The Dumbing Of America has posted a little interview conducted with yours truly a couple weeks back. It’s gripping stuff, really.

By : Frank Yang at 8:07 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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  1. Bruce says:

    Shame about Maximo, was very much looking forward to seeing them again — they were indeed superb last time they played here. Don’t forget to add Placebo to the recent Anglo DL. It’s an epidemic. (Wait a minute, I’ve heard London has been hit bad by H1N1…)