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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