Release Date: Mar 24, 2009
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Believe it or not, three quarters of Franz Ferdinand are well into their 30s. Looking as sharp and as now (well, in 2004 at least) as they do, it’s pretty hard to believe. But being older than the average scene-leading indie band means they have a past, too. Not one consisting of nights spent stacking shelves in Tesco, but more nights getting sweaty with local scenesters in little-known yet largely-respected Scottish indie bands.
On their lark of a debut album, 2007’s Cookies, 1990s were channeling everyone in the Brit-pop canon from T-Rex to Suede, acting as if the late-'90s collapse of the genre never happened. That they came off as a more fun-loving version of Franz Ferdinand wasn’t surprising: 1990s main man, Jackie McKeown, was the lead singer for Scottish rock cult hits Yummy Fur, which once counted Alexander Kapranos as a member, and the band was created as a bar band that McKeown could play in for fun. But then someone discovered them, and they were signed by Rough Trade.
The 1990s' first album (2007 's Cookies) was a raw and immediate rock & roll party with jagged hooks, snarky vocals, and often hilarious lyrics. The follow-up, Kicks, sadly falls prey to many of the pitfalls of the dreaded sophomore slump, and as a result turns out to be a disappointment. Not that it's a bad album; there are some catchy songs and spunky performances here and there.
Expectations can be a bitch: If 1990s hadn't released such a fresh-sounding debut, maybe this follow-up wouldn't feel so stale. Cookies introduced us to the Scottish trio and surprised listeners with its cheeky wit, perky hooks, and hedonistic attitude. All of which only serves to highlight Kicks' comparable lack of laughs, spontaneity, and ease. Frankly, though, even if listeners could wipe their collective memories clean of Cookies' legacy, this album would be hard to distinguish from the throng of other UK-based bands storming our shores armed with herky-jerky guitar riffs, modish 1970s punk influences, and skinny-tie strut.
Rather, The Pains of Having To Write a Second Album. Glasgow’s 1990s shouldn’t have gotten lost in the shuffle with 2007’s debut Cookies, but that’s what happened, the band reaching a certain level of acclaim in the UK, but breaking with nothing bigger than the backing track on some Nissan Sales Event commercial on American TV. Sure, there was excitement at the outset – throughout the ‘90s, frontman John McKeown was the ringleader of The Yummy Fur, whose wiry, personal blasts of bedroom glam-punk forecasted the early ‘00s keyboard-driven wavo style of their Britpop-aligned swan song Sexy World, and the lo-fi frustration vibes afflicting music today, in some sort of palindromic indicator of being incredibly ahead of one’s time.