Monday, February 14, 2011

The French Kicks - One Time Bells - 2002

On their debut full-length One Time Bells, the French Kicks polish and expand on the endearingly messy post-punk of their previous work, opting for sculpted hooks and eclectic arrangements instead of garage rock bluster. Like their labelmates the Walkmen, the Kicks take an arty, stylized approach, making their pared-down rock anything but basic; off-kilter keyboard lines and backing vocals keep the tight, insistent riffs on songs like "Wrong Side" and "When You Heard You" from becoming too claustrophobic. A previously unheard sensitive side to the group's sound also surfaces on One Time Bells, particularly on the bittersweet, bouncy "Down Now"; the Anglo pop-tinged "Crying Just for Show"; and the wonderful "Close to Modern," a shimmering, jittery fusion of new wave and '60s soul that also recalls some of Modest Mouse's and the Dismemberment Plan's best moments. In fact, with the exception of the raucous "1985" and the jagged groove of the title track, the group breaks almost entirely from the punky, garagey sound of their self-titled and Young Lawyer EPs. While the appealing rawness of their early material is occasionally missed here, the strides forward that the group makes on this album more than make up for it. Simple and catchy enough to be interesting on the first listen and quirky enough to remain interesting afterward, One Time Bells proves that the French Kicks are only getting better. -AMG



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