French Kicks

Two Thousand

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AllMusic Review by

Teaming up once more with Trial of the Century producer Doug Boehm, the French Kicks turn in an even more polished, poppy-sounding set of songs with Two Thousand. Problem is, even though the album overflows with pop signifiers -- strummy guitars, appealingly breathy harmonies, and infectious beats -- they come together in memorable songs at a surprisingly low rate. That's not to say that Two Thousand is flat-out bad. In fact, tracks like "So Far We Are," "Cloche," and "Keep It Amazed" are perfectly pleasant, but they just don't leave much of an impression after they've ended. The mere niceness of these songs is even more disappointing considering how hooky the French Kicks' previous albums were; it was the band's strong songwriting that made their transition from One Time Bells' spiky, rough-around-the-edges pop to the pretty synth textures of Trial of the Century so smooth. Once again, the Kicks spend a lot of time on Two Thousand's sound, coming up with a finely crafted patchwork that pieces together bits of classic pop, new wave, and electronica that separate them even further from the garage rock revival they were lumped in with originally (with this album and their last, they're getting much closer to the territory of their Two Thousand tourmates, Phoenix). "Hey I Wait I"'s galloping piano melody and "Basement D.C."'s carefully layered keyboards, guitars, and handclaps are particularly ear-catching, but the overall lushness and detail of Two Thousand's production and arrangements end up being the album's strongest points instead of its songs. A few tracks have songwriting equal to the album's sonics, offering some tantalizing glimpses of the French Kicks at their best. The sparkly, swooning "Also Ran" feels like a logical progression from Trial of the Century, while "No Mean Time"'s quirky mix of acoustic guitars and a Motown-inspired bassline gives the song an appealing lightness and movement. "Go On" ends the album on a surprisingly tense, moody note, but best of all is "England Just Will Not Let You Recover," which melds a skipping electronic beat, keyboard melodies and countermelodies that pop in and out, and silky, bittersweet vocals into one of band's best songs to date. On Trial of the Century and this album, it's clear that the French Kicks have worked hard on developing their music. Two Thousand is nothing if not well crafted; that it doesn't have more memorable moments is as frustrating as it is mystifying.

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