Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Back home in New York City, French Kicks and The Walkmen share a rehearsal space and blessed are those who share a wall or a floor with that place. If there are neighbors - and that's not anything that's for sure - they are treated with some of the most important music being made in America, particularly for those of us nearing or eclipsing thirty-something-dom, as members of those two are or have already done. They've been writing music to get older to, to grow into and still gaze back on fondly. Every piece of their respective oeuvres is a meticulously put together postscript, meant to sum it all up - the downs and the downers, the ups and the spoilers, the connecting of the dots to all before and all after. They don't write conceited or pretentious displays of reflection, just brass tacks and nothing but the truth as they fought with it. They both seem to so routinely find eloquence in their spoonfuls of salt and sugar, as confusing of a mixture as ever there was. Each nibble brings sharp and very different tastes to a tongue that sorts them out.
The Walkmen are the curmudgeonly gang of five who remind us of how J.D. Salinger or John Wayne would have made music if they had ever wanted to go that route. They speak with a thousand years of experience, somehow, and they've gotten so comfortable in their unwashed skin. French Kicks take a different route to their unique and mystifying wave pool of sounds. Nick Stumpf and Josh Wise intersect harmonies and function as they were attempting to write the history of their relationship with New York City and its vagaries, transgressions, torpid mannerisms, resilient ambivalence and overall beauty through the eyes of Jan & Dean or more accurately, a less chipper, but like-minded Jan & Dean. They seem to experience more nights without conclusions and ends than most others that we'll have the privilege of coming across during our days. They experience a gooey fluctuation between the here and there of what they're dealing with from sun-up to sundown.
How the Alaskans stand those weeks of only darkness, we'll never really comprehend, but here's a hunch that they beg the French Kicks for their secrets. They manage in the softened light better than anyone and though there are similar lost puppy feelings from previous records on the band's latest offering, Swimming, the times have certainly changed into an atmosphere of predominant adulthood. There are no hard-soled shoes allowed to be worn throughout the duration of the album - bare feet or boat shoes would be the footwear of choice for even the friction of a slick, hard sole would be enough to screech like a nail across a chalkboard right in the middle of one of the countless and substantially drunken grooves that these guys have perfected in producing as if it were the easiest thing imaginable. They've never wasted a summer day, so it seems, never wasted a summer night. They likely get on alright with the nastiest of winter temps and the season's bitchy attitude.
A question arises toward the end of Swimming where it's asked about whether it's easier to run or to just roll on, to dismiss the small stuff and the panic attacks for something else entirely, something that won't take so much work and will likely bring about just as much comfort. The recognition of choice in that matter - and the willingness to smother that recognition of choice with reverbed out vocals that glow like a phosphorescence that got out of its cage, splendidly muddied up like a baseball waiting for the first pitch and all of the trappings of an early 1970s get together in a room cooled only by a box fan on high, a time to just fade out with friends while spinning Donovan and Zombies records. Then…it's morning already, with the strong smells of eggs and bacon scurrying through the floor vents.
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