1990s' sophomore effort owes more to the '70s and '80s than it does to the decade of slacker posturing and grunge-fueled angst. The 12 tracks on Kicks are an uplifting mix of swaggering garage-rock, jangle-pop and the neon-clad guitar-pop of the Reagan era. Singer Jackie McKeown has no problem attacking a wide range of tones. He adopts a sultry glam-rock sneer on the stadium-ready stomper "Kickstrasse," does his best Damon Albarn on the blues-laced fuzz-rocker "The Box" and is pure sugary pop on "Tell Me When You're Ready" and "59." Not many groups have been able to tackle this sort of retro guitar-pop with such aplomb. There's nothing gimmicky about the way the 1990s run through these smart, smirking tunes. Instead, Kicks is a prozac-induced trip through rock's brighter, more infectious moments, with no hints of irony or trend-hopping. The album's youthful energy, clever hooks that come wrapped in vintage rock-star attitude and a clear, glimmering production style make for a consistently pleasing record. — Matt Whelihan
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