By: Eric G.
This transplanted New York City quartet has its feet planted in diverging musical styles that culminate in a relatively catchy mix of grating punk, trashy glam rock, and British invasion harmonies. Admittedly, the French Kicks are not very original on the surface. How many glam rock rehashes have you heard in recent years, anyway (Vue, Makeup)? Beneath the trendy facade, though, the French Kicks do offer some gritty rock and roll that packs a fairly memorable punch. You've heard Jonathan Fire*Eater, I presume? Well, the French Kicks owe just as much to the Rolling Stones and the New York Dolls as to those now-defunct Birthday Party plunderers.
French Kicks support their harmonies with angular rhythms and jagged guitars. The vocal melodies are truly remarkable considering the jarring musical foundation over which they are lain; most bands, in fact, would find it hard simply not to yell over the shrill emissions. The vocals are confident yet slackjawed, dragging slowly over the alternately plodding and dancey rhythms. Imagine if Steven Malkmus took himself seriously when he sang and you'll begin to get a sense of what the French Kicks' vocal approach is like (times three- for three different yet hardly distinguishable singers).
The title track dumps the band's bag of tricks all over the floor, revealing the reverb-drenched guitars, the shuffling rhythms, the groovy bass lines, and the abrasive changes. Gluing it all together are the seemingly out of place harmonies. "Living Room Is Empty" refines the formula slightly with a more digestible guitar pattern that trots along slowly enough for the vocals to sound even more soporific. The tinny recording doesn't really do justice to the music, which sounds like it would be a rollicking racket live, but such is the drawback of being a throwback- you can't really embrace new technology either.
Like any good glam rock band, the French Kicks lace their songs with the requisite amount of sexual energy. The singers sound as if they are sucking on the microphones the way they stretch and slur their syllables so much. You get the feeling the irony of the rock star mentality is lost on these guys. Are we expected to take such posturing seriously without so much as a semblance of self-deprecation? I doubt these guys give much of a fuck. Bands don't analyze themselves in those terms. It's only rock and roll to them. And that's the way it should be.