The French Kicks have presented the same problem to music journalists for a third time in a row. How do you write about music that’s unremarkable but pleasant in a way that people will want to read it?
Did I lose you just now? No? Good. Thing is, The French Kicks really are a damn decent band. They’re incredibly consistent, which is comforting in a time when the business is so volatile. But consistency comes with its price: namely, boredom.
Existing fans may find themselves pleased that the band has, once again, stuck to the “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” mantra. But by the end of Swimming, their fourth full length, it becomes clear that the refusal to move forward counts as being broken.
The band makes a few small efforts to spice things up. “Carried Away” and “Sex Tourists” are sunnier than the group’s usual mellow, cooled-off attitude. Lead vocalist Nick Stumpf has expanded his falsetto and the entire group is experimenting with new ways to use their voices, layering them in alternating shifts (“Atlanta”) as opposed to just their standard Stumpf on verse, band on chorus approach.
It’s not enough, though, to keep Swimming from sounding like a rehash of better songs by the time “The Way You Arrive” comes around. If someone wants to hear Trial of the Century, they’ll listen to it – there’s no need for the band to recreate it! The drum parts especially sound cut and pasted, even from within the album, and it’s highly doubtful that any group outside of Africa has used shakers this much.
It’s not that the French Kicks are doing anything wrong, per se. Swimming is yet another album from them that’s rather easy to like. Unfortunately, it’s also rather difficult to truly love. Because the only thing that’s worse than a band that’s overambitious is a band of underachievers.