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1990s - Kicks

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Artist: 1990s

Album: Kicks

Label: Rough Trade

Review date: Apr. 10, 2009

Rather, The Pains of Having To Write a Second Album. Glasgow’s 1990s shouldn’t have gotten lost in the shuffle with 2007’s debut Cookies, but that’s what happened, the band reaching a certain level of acclaim in the UK, but breaking with nothing bigger than the backing track on some Nissan Sales Event commercial on American TV.

Sure, there was excitement at the outset – throughout the ‘90s, frontman John McKeown was the ringleader of The Yummy Fur, whose wiry, personal blasts of bedroom glam-punk forecasted the early ‘00s keyboard-driven wavo style of their Britpop-aligned swan song Sexy World, and the lo-fi frustration vibes afflicting music today, in some sort of palindromic indicator of being incredibly ahead of one’s time. That was a band you could gleefully nerd out over and not feel self-conscious; they were great, they understood the Fall and had that sparkling combination of hyper-literate worldview and juvenile sense of humor; they spent their time bagging references to Pasolini, wonder bras, calling your folks to ask for more money, and sex acts at the disco while we stood there wondering how the hell they got so clever.

1990s seemed to be heading in a comparable direction on Cookies, with sing-song singles like “You’re Supposed to Be My Friend,” which shoved pop around like being punched in the chest, and gave the half of the record that chose to entrench itself at favorable odds with the pop aspects that showed up to play nice. Kicks dilutes the band’s most crucial currency – McKeown himself, here giving drummer Michael McGaughrin and new bassist Dino Bardot (both late of V-Twin) equal footing in both singing and songwriting. Rude, buzzing sleaze like the shufflers “The Box” and “Kickstrasse” have to share space with common fare like “59,” sounding like Rip It Up era Orange Juice and dreaming of Wham! This would work for other bands, but the potential being squandered here is palpable. The album is also horribly sequenced, pushing its best tracks down after a morass of prettier, more insipid melodies had fluffed you. Dreams die in the band’s unsteady hands, not unlike the dream of there being any legit US reissues of the Yummy Fur’s catalog. Hopes to leverage the market on another Franz Ferdinand are slimmer with each passing day, leaving these guys out in the rain.

By Doug Mosurock

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