As a little girl I used to stare at my Monkees poster while dry humping a plush E.T. doll--fantasizing elaborate imagery of just what me and Davey's wedding would be like. Granted, this all might not speak to my musical taste at age seven, but this relationship with music--at once passionate, sentimental, sexual--has been lost in me through grunge, emo, garage rock, or any other sexually vacant movements that have come to pass. This could all be chalked up to the calming of burgeoning hormones, I suppose; that is until I heard the French Kicks' The Trial of the Century. An unabashed embrace of croonerism--TOC is the first genuine return to uninhibited and authentic love, sex, and related trials of angst (the kind not articulated through pathetic callowing over homemade keyboards, anyway) that I can remember in a very long time.
Sure, vocalist Nick Stumpf's name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue quite like that of pop-idol crooners past, but he's even better: an updated version with endearing flaws that only add to the package--his slightly awkward lankiness and modesty, easily apparent from the stage. His brother Lawrence's bass fills in no more than is needed, while Matt Stinchcomb and Josh Wise trade between guitar and keyboards in an exchange that favors key plunking over guitar rocking.
In Trial Of the Century, French Kicks reemerge with a sound removed from the New York garage rock to which their first full-length One Time Bells was so indebted--exercising patience, delicate style, and unexpected freshness. In the quiet subtlety of their hooks the band emphasize their refusal to catapult every song into a full volumed guitar rock-out. The French Kicks don't shy away from high pitched harmonizations, "oohs" and "ahhs," or simple lyrical declarations such as "We'll be fine" or "and I miss you in the morning."
While most reviewers casually characterized TOC as the perfect breakup album, it's much more than that. It's the epitome of the forging, realization, and disintegration of love, sex, and everything therein that is rudimentarily beautiful.