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Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Rock soup

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2001 at 12:00 AM

In a large mixing bowl, pour half a sloppy cup of garage-rock swagger and add arty D.C. after-rock to taste. Then, what the hell — throw in some mod denim pop for additional sweetness. It’s almost as if the French Kicks researched their latest EP, Young Lawyer, by kickin’ around Detroit’s rock underground for a few years.

Instead, when it came time to record, the guys fled their musician-drenched Brooklyn, N.Y., hometown and took refuge on a wealthy friend’s isolated farm in the mountains of Virginia. In exchange for some light care of the property, the band was allowed to live, compose and rehearse at the farm free of charge.

The separation from home, isolation from the crowds, subways and horns of the city and a tense sense of comfort as guests in luxury perhaps ushered forth the intriguing mix found on Young Lawyer. The anxiety shows in the just-off timing and sporadic song-speak. Fond sentiments of home shine through in the dirty New York rock guitar. And the comfort and good company of old friends leads to the clap-your-hands melody and unbleached sugar-sweet vocal harmonies.

The band’s debut four-song EP on My Pal God Records introduced its distinctive brand of sloppy art rock and Young Lawyer further develops each of the elements in a clean, stripped-down style. From the opening tinny repetitive guitar strains and tsk-tsk drumming of the title track, the anticipation builds into a vivid vocal explosion. Matthew Stinchcomb (guitar, vocals), Nick Stumpf (drums/vocals) and Josh Wise (guitar, piano, vocals) trade off in a tag team singing technique. Meanwhile, Jamie Krents offers the steady undercurrent on bass bringing cohesion to even more tangled guitar rants. The intensity created is reminiscent of the Rolling Stones on a roll, matched with the language sensitivity of Television. Fashioning a synergy of influences into a clever-sounding casserole, French Kicks stimulate your brain and body into an oh-so-satisfying exhaustion.

French Kicks play at the Gold Dollar with the Dishes and The Wildbunch Sat., Feb. 17. Click over to What's Happening for more details.

Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at mgiannini@metrotimes.com.

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