On French Style Furs' debut, Matt Maust and Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids and We Barbarians' Nathan Warkentin make the most of the soulful, post-punk-inspired indie rock of their main projects, and recapture the essence of their music in the process. The band came together relatively quickly, and that urgency pulses through Is Exotic Bait's highlights, which sound much more raw and driven than Maust and Willett's other band has in some time. The album gets off to a strong start, with the trio mapping out its sound on the punchy "3 Friends"; "All the Way Down," which fashions 20th century monk Thomas Merton's poetry into an exercise in raw spirituality ("I've seen the room where life and death are made"); and the subtly anthemic "(World in My) Bloodstream." Along the way, French Style Furs make the most of their ability to be bookish and brawny at the same time, particularly on the hypnotic rockers "Ambassadors of General Electric" and "Man the Master," either of which would have been a highlight of Cold War Kids' Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. The looser, liberated feel of Is Exotic Bait extends to its dynamic, organic arrangements, which span "Solitary Life"'s brass and "Christmas Card"'s frayed electronics. At times, the album's momentum fizzles a bit (the meditative "Miami U R About 2 B Surprised" might work better at the end of the album rather than in the middle), but all told, this is a concise, entertaining introduction -- or reintroduction -- to a band whose music compares favorably to the projects that spawned it.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares