It might seem like a good idea to copy what the David Frickes and MTVs of the world would call the world’s most popular band, but let’s face it: We really don’t need another U2. Apparently nobody bothered to relay this information to the French Kicks.
Returning with their second full-length album, Two Thousand, the promising Brooklyn indie group struggles to establish a definite self-identity.
One moment the band mimics groups from the ’80s synth-pop era, the next they sound like a Strokes copycat, emulating the neo-rock trend of the early ’00s. But despite the lack of complete coherence, the French Kicks Two Thousand is at times a charming album with addictive guitar hooks and the occasional dream-inducing vocals.
But relying almost entirely upon lead singer Nick Stumpf’s vocals, Two Thousand offers little in the way of creativity, and elicits the simple qualifiers of boring and repetitive.
“So Far We Are” wins the award for U2 sound-alike as the Kicks dance in and out of simple guitar chords that could easily have been coined by The Edge, leaving Stumpf’s pipes to push the track forward.
“Keep it Amazed” suffers from the same fault of annoyingly repetitive guitar stanzas poorly accented by grade-school drumming, again leaving just Stumpf’s vocal punch to rescue the tune. But he can’t stop the listener from hitting the skip button, as the monotonous five minutes would put any caffeine-addicted college student to sleep.
“Cloche” might very well have been a track found in the dumpster after The Strokes pared down Is This It. With its frantic guitar histrionics that sound almost tropical and continuous rising action – think “Last Nite,” only hopelessly deluded – the Kicks successfully join the stereotypical New York-based rock club. Even the Kicks frontman Stumpf fails on this one as he jumps on a vocal rollercoaster and belts out incoherent phrases that dip and dive, but just come out as incomprehensible ramblings.
Despite a complete disregard for originality, a few tracks hint at the promise behind this young band. “England Just Will Not Let You Recover” could have easily found its place on the “Marie Antoinette” soundtrack, with its up-tempo drum progression and atmospheric synth riffs that clearly belong in movie portraying confusion and carriage rides. Stumpf’s vocal wails echo Bernard Sumner’s, and there’s something about the faux-violin synth highs that make the otherwise dull song inordinately catchy.
The album’s closer, “Go On,” begins with promise as guitarist Josh Wise injects spooky plucks that set a dreary scene, but transitions into a whimsical force of sound that ends too abruptly and just too damn joyously.
But even a few promising tracks can’t save the record from a band that’s badly in need of just moving on.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars