French Kicks – Swimming
French Kicks are back with a new album, thank god, called “Swimming,” out sometime soon on some record label and most likely available at iTunes and illegal download sites everywhere. I’m interested in seeing how the water is, so let’s have a dip.
The first two tunes- first single ‘Abandon’ and ‘Over the World’- have the sort of propulsive thrust that made ‘Trial of the Century’ so great. ‘Carried Away’ has a weird tropical island vibe to it; think Rupert Holmes for the 21st century if he stopped drinking pina coladas and started smoking pot. Things start to cruise again with ‘New Man.’ These guys can get into such a great and effortless groove that it’s downright exhilarating getting to know their best new songs. These songs, lyrics of yearning and sadness and glee and lost and found, are perfect for this moment of spring into summer and for driving without stopping. At least, I assume that’s what the lyrics are about. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what they’re saying, and for all I know, he could be singing about how difficult it is to do his laundry. But the romantic ideas are better, so we’ll stick with that.
Things do bog down slightly in the middle with the dirge-y threesome ‘Said So What,’ ‘Atlanta’ and ‘Love In the Ruins.’ The band seems to be running around not doing too much and unsure why they’re even doing it in this middle section. Hoping to hear different things a second and third time through, repeat was hit on the virtual CD player but unfortunately nothing came through, and then nothing again. These middle songs really drag the album to an unfortunate halt. Poor pacing does yet another album in. At least on vinyl, you could have a great side and a crap side. But the MP3 generation may not care. They’ll just download or steal the songs they like and not worry about the muddy middle section. It’s the rock critic’s job to point it out anyway and thusly feel better- more self-important- about him or herself.
Things pick up again quickly with ‘All Our Weekends’ which can’t help reminding me of ‘The Trial of the Century’- the song- but has its own chill little repetitive vibe to set it apart. The production throughout is great- crisp and natural, done by the band themselves. The instruments and the voices have room to breathe. There are nice little treasures buried within the best songs that are chipped out with repeated listens, and the instrumentation throughout is creative and enjoyable. It’s an album to put in the iTunes and come back to when one remembers ‘Oh yeah, I really liked that song called “New Man”!’
Not really as enjoyable as an entire piece as their last album, ‘Swimming’ essentially is a 50/50 tossup: a few great songs, a couple good ones, and some boring ones that fade into wallpaper. You can put it on and smile and tap your toes and not be completed disgusted. Faint praise? Sure, but these days, that’s about all we can ask.
By the way, the release date is May 20 on Vagrant, and if you're really interested, there's an iTunes exclusive digital release on April 1.