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Hello Hong Kong

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Album Review

The Kicks return with Hello Hong Kong, a second album that actually plays more like a revamped version of their debut: seven songs — more than half the album — originally appeared on The Kicks. This is somewhat excusable, considering that Hello Hong Kong is the Kicks' major-label debut and the Kicks had a lot of hooky songs that make for a good introduction to the band. However, some of these songs seem to have suffered a bit during their major-label makeovers; Butch Vig's trademark shiny production tends to make the band's already radio-friendly melodies and hooks sound slick and generic instead of appealing. While the most urgent songs ("Radar") cut through the sheen and the poppiest ones ("Satellite," "Mir," and "Pop Star Radio Crown") work with it, the tracks that fall in-between these extremes sound even more in-between than they did before. As for Hello Hong Kong's new songs, "What Do I Have to Do?" is one of the better offerings, with a desperate, bordering on pathological chorus that is equally catchy and creepy. "12 Steps" flirts with emo earnestness, and "The Exorcist"'s wry but vulnerable look at relationship woes recalls Pinkerton-era Weezer (as does "Ninety-Nine," an "I'm into her, but she's into girls" rant that could be a rewrite of "Pink Triangle"). Indeed, Hello Hong Kong's main flaw is that it sounds like a block of modern rock radio programming all by itself; while the Kicks are adept at sampling from power pop, punk-pop, and emo, crafting something truly distinctive-sounding from those influences still eludes them. Even the album's most unique moment, a mix of crooning, faux-British vocals, cheesy synths, and big guitars known as "Pretty One," doesn't feel convincing as anything other than a crafty pastiche. Hello Hong Kong isn't at all a bad album, but it does suggest that the Kicks might be too competent at sounding like other bands for their own good.


Formed: 2000 in Little Rock, AR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Little Rock, AR's the Kicks features singer/guitarist Scott Cook, bassist/vocalist Joshua Faulkner, lead guitarist/keyboardist Jesse Palmer, and drummer Jaren Johnsten. The band formed in 2000, blending power pop, punk-pop, and metal influences into a sound they could call their own. They debuted in 2002 with their self-titled first album, which was released by Compendia; two years later, they returned with their TVT debut, Hello Hong...
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Hello Hong Kong, The Kicks
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