Plumbiferous Media

Kicks – 1990s

Mar 26th 2009
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Kicks - 1990s1990s
Score: 35

The 1990s are a three-man indie band from Glasgow, composed of Jackie McKeown (formerly of the Yummy Furs), Michael McGaughrin, and Dino Bardot. Their newest album, Kicks follows the well-received Cookies, released in 2007. However, Kicks does not in any way match up to Cookies, and is, in fact, somewhat awful.

One of the actually refreshing parts of Kicks is the return of the bass part to an, at times even counterpuntal, harmony, rather than the dull ‘one, one, five, four one’ oversimplified chord denotor. The constantly impressive, always apparent bass part was quite possibly the best individual part of the album. The guitar fared similarly well, but some over-repetition, and random effect changes reminiscent of middle school talent shows certainly did not help. As for the drummer, his lines were interesting, but they often lacked the rhythmic consistency the tracks often needed. While the instruments fared moderately well, the vocals did not.

Jackie McKeown’s vocals match the energetic, eclectic style of the 1990s well, and so our complaints with them don’t lie in their combination with the music. McKeown’s vocals are also, though nearly always out of tune, certainly successful at evoking the sound of classic rock, but it’s not entirely clear that this is a beneficial attribute on Kicks, which would have benefited from staying near the indie aesthetics of the 1990s’s last album, Cookies. Instead, as McKeown cries out line after line, his voice begins to seem increasingly overdone and almost unnatural. This effect is certainly worsened by the repetition of the music, as well as the 1990s’s seeming ignorance of any rhythmic aesthetics.

However mediocre McKeown’s vocals may be, the lyrics he sings are even worse. Entirely composed of platitudes and inane stories, the lyrics are uninventive, boring, and frankly irritating. As McKeown sings about “blowing bubbles like you just don’t care,” we’re left with the impression that Kicks could have been tolerable, even given McKeown’s voice, if the 1990s had gotten a better songwriter (or perhaps a songwriter at all). However, no such luck, and it’s probably best to assume that when it comes to writing decent lyrics, the 1990s “don’t even know what that is.”

Overall, everything the instruments built up to was cut down by McKeown’s weak vocals and weaker lyrics. That’s not to say that the sounds would have been great without him, as the guitar, bass, and drums are by no means front-line parts. They are almost exclusively meant to support the vocals, but no amount of support ended up being enough. An additional problem with Kicks was in a fair amount of need for more track diversity, although, then again, the lighter tracks always seemed to be the weakest.

Most of the members of the 1990s clearly have musical skill, and there are places where it is expressed in Kicks. But, for all the outlined reasons, most notably McKeown, the album was not what it could have been. Quite frankly, McKeown needs to try and remember how to sing.

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