Formed in 2017 and with a self-titled long player released back in 2019, London 3-piece power pop sensations More Kicks return with their sophomore album ‘Punch Drunk’ on Stardumb Records. And they promise a heavier, more expansive sound with an album born of frustration, anger and heartbreak during lockdown. Consisting of James Sullivan (Sulli) on vocals/guitar, Kris Hood on drums and Paolo Mantovani on bass, the band continue their campaign for world domination with an explosion of fuzzy guitars and pop sensibilities.

While the lush, choral harmonies that introduce opener ‘Hurts Like Hell’ may bring to mind indie folk darlings Fleet Foxes in a Nashville church, the sound of More Kicks has two size 9’s firmly planted somewhere in a London garage.

Recorded live in the studio onto 2” tape (as with the debut album), they barely breach the 3-minute barrier for their melodic, power pop ditties that resemble the sound of Mega City 4 jamming Buzzcocks and Sonics cover tunes. Current single ‘Terminal Love’ is a fine example of how this band mix indie beats, jangly guitars and melodic goodness to great effect. Lyrically dealing with a relationship that has run its course, it’s a remarkably upbeat ditty with a chorus that will ring around your skull for days, and a vocal that sounds like Paul Heaton banging out an Undertones tune. More Kicks are sure onto a winner methinks.

With its ‘My Sharona’ riff, ‘Animal’ was the lead track from an EP that preceded this album release. It is delivered with a primal statement of intent; the refrain builds nicely as fuzzy guitars accompany a passionate vocal. With just enough powerhouse drums, bouncing bass and shouty, gang vocals, the high energy ‘Good Enough’ is a blast from start to finish. It even has a Wildhearts-esque chuggy guitar bit thrown in for good measure. There’s a definite Senseless Things/MC4 thang going on here, which can only be a good thing in my book.

Yeah, like fellow London reprobates The Speedways, it seems More Kicks are the kings of lo-fi power pop. Potential radio hits flow left, right and center over the course of this 12-track album. It is short, sweet and to the point. Feedback and a bass drum build to a frantic beat that introduces the punky ‘In Love’, a song that takes us back to late 70’s punk and new wave. Distorted power chords, crashing drums and killer gang vocals drive the primal feel of ‘Come Home’.

They tone down and tug at the heartstrings momentarily. The picked chords, echoey vocals and sweet melody of ‘Got Lucky’ come over almost like a nursery rhyme, with the rhythm section playing a bare bones accompaniment, just enough to give it some depth. Elsewhere, with just a reverb-soaked guitar as accompaniment, Sulli delivers the raw and emotive ‘Phoney Middle-Aged Art’, its short length leaving you wanting more.

Mixing up the garage rock sounds of the late 60’s & 70’s with definite 90’s indie rock leanings, More Kicks have produced a fine follow up to their debut album. ‘Punch Drunk’ is 12 tracks of raw, power pop goodness, written during a time of emotional change and forced isolation. Like we always say, bad times bring out the best in a songwriter and ‘Punch Drunk’ is a testament to that.

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Author: Ben Hughes