Is the late 1970s/early 1980s post-punk revival still relevant? It was certainly refreshing to see lean, snotty rock 'n' roll back on the scene in the early 2000s, when it seemed like all anyone wanted to listen to were The Strokes and bands that sounded like The Strokes. Get a good look (bed heads, tattered Chucks), get a scrappy lo-fi pop sound (make sure to reference Television, Gang Of Four, The Fall), and wait for the labels to start the bidding war. In fact, here we are in 2007 and record labels are still scrambling to find the next big thing in the genre. Well, it seems like the party's not over yet for the sons of Richard Hell, and if anything, everything lately is starting to become more danceable. It's about time for 1990s, yeah?
Hailing from Glasgow, the trio of 1990s boasts a musical pedigree that should draw them enough attention straight off. Lead singer Jackie McKeown used to front the band Yummy Fur, who had its heyday back in the emo-driven mid-1990s, and two members of Franz Ferdinand were in Yummy Fur as well. The album is on the revered Rough Trade label, and the producer is Bernard Butler, who used to be the guitarist for The London Suede. Take a listen to Cookies though, and you won't find any of the emotional arcs of Suede or the brooding self-indulgence of fellow label-mate Pete Doherty. What Cookies has to offer is simpler than all that nonsense. It's fun, lean, and linear. McKeown knows the best and quickest way to win a bar fight is to knock the other guy out with one haymaker before he even knows what hit him. The toothless hooks on Cookies are major, and they tear off in such a flurry that many times they leave you wondering how the song ended so fast.
The opener, "You Made Me Like It," struts in like a downtown brat ("I'm glad we had the party at YOUR place...oh yeah!") and leads straight into the infectious sing-along of "See You At The Lights." At every turn, Cookies delivers one punch line after another. On the romper "You're Supposed To Be My Friend," McKeown spits "It's hard to get you on the phone/You're never home/You're never at my place neither/Yeah well that makes two of us." And on "Switch," things get even more hostile ("I'm tired of listening while you bitch it up/Is there a switch for that?"). The middle section of Cookies suffers a slight letdown in energy ("Weeds" has no business being on this record), but the last two tracks jackknife the album back to life. The machine-gun guitar frenzy of "Thinking Of Not Going" sounds like Butler somehow Frankenstein-ed Kevin Shields and Thurston Moore into one giant buzz saw amp. "Situation," the album's closer and most introspective track, glides in with a classic Neu! bass line and tweaks out on it for a good couple minutes after the first chorus, leaving you wired for more.
Much of the stiff lip attitude throughout Cookies feels like a veteran showman trying to teach the new block how it's done. Remember how in the early 1990s, after his first triptych of trophies, Michael Jordan sat around, played golf, and watched all the cocky young bravados slam dunk their way into the spotlight? Something brewed after a couple years and so Jordan came back with an agenda and won three more championships in the late 1990s. What is it about watching someone do something that you know you can do better? There's no doubt all those sold out stadium shows that Franz Ferdinand rifled off a few years ago struck a nerve with McKeown. There's no room for reverence when playing rock n roll, something that hip-hop understood from the very beginning. You either act like you're at the top or don't bother showing up.