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Artist: 1990s

Album: Cookies

Label: Rough Trade / World's Fair

Review date: Jul. 18, 2007


1990s - "See You At The Lights" (Cookies)


Why would anyone name a band after the decade just past? As a sly way of saying that you don't give a damn about whether you fit into the trend of the moment? As a reference to an ever-so-slightly more prominent past? As homage to Pulp and Oasis and Blur and all the Brit pop bands that ruled the NME over the mid-1990s? As a commemoration of the decade which ended, for you, in the dissolution of your old band, Yummy Fur, and with two former mates going on to start the interstellar-popular Franz Ferdinand right under your nose? Or possibly just to fuck with people?

Let's go with the last choice, because however sanguine or still-hurting Jackie McKeown is about his old band, however transfixed or blasť about mid-1990s Brit pop, he clearly likes to mess with people's heads. Which is fine, as long it brings with it this kind of superlatively snotty, bratty, sexually swaggering rock and roll...a la glam icons like Mott the Hoople and T. Rex (and, incidentally, Suede's Bernard Butler, who produced Cookies).

This disc starts with "You Made Me Like It," a preening, hip-jutting strut. The aggression in a whipsaw guitar line is only partially softened by pop-flecked "ah-ah-ah" vocal flourishes, McKeown's lead vocals a continual yelp and tease. "See You At the Lights" pushes the dance-rhythms further, the swish and slash of disco cymbals under pop saccharine choruses. ("You're Supposed to be My Friend," later on, has the same sort of slushy, strobe-lit beat.) Still it's "Cult Status" that makes the sale - rock-simple drums and scrubbed up-and-down guitar chords under McKeown's languid falsetto. "Strange faces...not too clean / Wrong side of 16" he croons, the band kicking in a delighted "Fifteen!" Cult status may not bring multi-platinum records and songs about Eleanor Friedenberg's boots...but it has its upside.

The whole midsection of the album is giddily enjoyable. Though "Arcade Precinct" sounds an awful lot like "Walk on the Wild Side," you forgive it almost immediately , just on the strength of its indelible, walking rhythm. Put it on headphones. Take a stroll. You'll feel like you're in a movie, something about losing your virginity in swinging London. "Switch" is twitchy, bitchy, garage-pop about getting people to shut up, while "Enjoying Myself" is a come-on littered with bizarre psychedelic images. Both ride the fine line between offensiveness and bratty charm; this sort of attitude will get you clocked as often as laid. Later album songs seem a bit less focused, though "Thinking of Not Going" has, hands down, the CD's kicking-est bass line.

On the strength of Cookies, the 1990s could easily fill the theatrical bad-boy slot last vacated by the Libertines. They're a louche and knowing guilty pleasure that you don't have to feel too bad about. None of their songs have much heft or seriousness to them, but if they're ephemeral, they make up for it by being really fun in the moment. Enjoy it now. It'll be over in about 10 minutes.

By Jennifer Kelly

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