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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 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. There are just too many problems with the record for it to be a success. Firstly, Kicks has a slicker, more produced sound. A big part of the success of the last record was its ragged and tough production; Kicks feels like it's been polished far too much and all the spontaneity and lads on a lark enthusiasm is gone. The lyrics too reflect a more professional and calculating angle with lots of forced sexual references and world-weary, edgy posturing with less silly humor and smart-ass wit. Another flaw is that guitarist Jackie McKeown sings far less here than on Cookies, which is sort of like keeping your best player on the bench and playing the second-string. That analogy isn't quite fair to drummer Michael McGaughrin. His smoother, less idiosyncratic voice works well as a contrast to McKeown, sort of like a Mick Jones to his Joe Strummer, it just doesn't work as an equal ingredient. It's also too bad that McKeown didn't contribute as much to the writing of the album and that they gave two spots over to less-interesting songs composed and sung by bassist Dino Bardot. Again, they are fine songs but not the equal of what the other two can do when they are working at top capacity. Basically the whole record has the appearance of a band going through the motions as they try to duplicate the previous success. This is the problem that bands face when they go from the thrill of making the first record to the grind of having to produce something equal or better than their debut. Not too many groups can pull it off; add the 1990s to the long list of bands who have failed. Not miserably, not disastrously, but just enough to make the prospect of them making a good third album pretty dim.

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