1990s, 'Kicks' (Rough Trade)

Critical Mass

by Lindsey Thomas

Like most bands that shape songs around wisecracks, this trio used up their best gags on their debut (2007's charming Bernard Butler–produced Cookies). Here, high-spirited frontman Jackie McKeown daydreams about kooky Hollywood life on the stop-and-start "Everybody Please Relax," abetted by sunny '60s pop interludes, and then responds to a proposition involving an obscure sex act ("I Don't Even Know What That Is") with punky swagger and stinging guitar. There's an inverse relationship between the guitars and jokes: The riffs have gotten sharper and more jagged as the punch lines have grown duller and less imaginative. Minus his smart-alecky cheek, it's increasingly difficult for McKeown to hold your interest.

Listen: The 1990s, "The Box"



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