French Kicks are not a traditional rock'n'roll band. Although they have elements of snarly garage rock, slick new wave, and giddy classic mod-pop, they remain completely unique. The four of them work together like draughtsmen creating musical architecture - a note is never wasted, a drop is never spilled. Their songs always seem to be on an angle, hovering just at breaking point. They cut to the quick with lurching riffs and palpitating percussion, but they are also cute and coltish and undeniably catchy. At heart, this is simple pop music, with hooks hookier than velcro and disarmingly pretty three-part harmonies.
Nick Stumpf (vocals) and Matt Stinchcomb (guitar) have been playing together since their middle school days in Washington D.C. After attending Oberlin College in Ohio, they relocated to Brooklyn, New York with their friend (and original bass player) Jamie Krents where they launched French Kicks in 1998, after meeting Alabama-native Josh Wise (keyboards, guitar). After only a few months of writing and rehearsing, they emerged as one of New York's most vital and exciting live bands, gaining a devoted following with their unpredictable edgy performances.
Following the release of their debut 'French Kicks' EP (on My Pal God Records) and the accomplished 'Young Lawyer' follow-up (both engineered and produced by Greg Talenfeld), they went on the road for several months with Nick's brother Lawrence replacing Jamie on bass. In the UK, Alan McGee's post-Creation label Poptones released the 'Young Lawyer' mini-album with three additional tracks from the debut EP, bringing them over to Britain for an enthusiastically received tour. In autumn 2001, the boys retreated again to Talenfeld's New York studio to record their debut full-length record.
The result, 'One Time Bells', is a perfect crystallization of French Kicks' taut, clipped, frequently beautiful sound. A highly diverse album, it manages to align all sorts of disparate elements into a streamlined, organic whole - and all in an economic 38 minutes 53 seconds. Things that sound irregular or dissonant the first time you hear them gradually come together like a painting or a jigsaw. Because of this, it might take time to get to know French Kicks - but once you do, their music is likely to become an indelible, compulsive addiction.