How important is a definite article? Just ask The Hives, The Vines, and every other rock revivalist band of the early 21st century with a certain three-letter word beginning its name. Lest we forget, Matt Johnson still gets top marks for conceiving the name, The The; brilliant! With all this talk of “The…” it’s a pleasant surprise that Glasgow’s puckish trio, 1990s, insists on avoiding the ubiquitous t-h-e. 1990s’ debut album, Cookies, exposes the band’s three-minute crunching rockers via a dozen songs that blend raw guitars, Jackie McKeown’s yelps, and small doses of deeper emotion with some success. 1990s’ songs often sound more silly than tough, yielding an overall result of fun, harmless, but generally indistinguishable garage rock.
With its late 70s/early 80s power pop rhythm, Cookies’ opener, “You Made Me Like It,” recalls certain songs by The Romantics and Canadian band, The Kings. The Kings’ allusion is even stronger on “Cult Status,” a more vocally dynamic track than “You Made Me Like It.” When McKeown repeats “My cult status keeps me alive” over a dozen times and finally ends the song with “My cult status keeps me fuckin’ your wife,” his sarcastic smile comes through vividly. The summer rock vibes of 30 years ago shine across “Enjoying Myself” and “Risque Pictures.”
While all of the aforementioned songs proceed with a lot of energy and a propulsive beat, their notable weakness is the lack of some especially catchy element. 1990s has good songs, but few of them stay with you after you’ve turned off the music. Imagine watching some show, whether a dramedy or sitcom, and hearing a great tune in the background that feels perfect then but seems out of place when played on its own, sans TV show. That’s how most of Cookies comes off, though there are a few exceptions. The combination of McKeown’s narration in the vein of Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) and “La la la” harmonies courtesy of all three 1990s members give “Arcade Precinct” a unique sound, within or outside of Cookies’ confines.
Other stand-out tracks on Cookies include “Pollokshields,” with its understated reverb and loud “Hey hey hey” chorus, the mellow and clever “Weed” (with lines like “Well I’ve been sad at home / Smokin’ too much weed now / I’m even scared of the telephone / And I don’t even got one”), and the epic guitar rethink that closes the album, “Situation.” Every 10 minutes or so, there is a hint of excellence on Cookies, but most of the time, 1990s’ music is better than average at best or simply too mood-specific to be enjoyed on a regular basis.