French Police

Chicago act French Police have their sound nailed down tight on new LP Bully. While superficially comparable to any number of other bands in the current darkwave scene thanks to their programmed drums, bass guitar forward arrangements and chiming guitar lines, the band apply a lo-fi, smokey vibe to their material, obscuring the edges of individual musical elements in the mix, and capping them with vocals that vacillate between disaffected and longing as the song requires.

While that gives the band an identity and sonic calling card, there’s a lack of dynanism inherent in their approach that makes the songs all blend together. The material on Bully has its moments certainly, but there’s also a lack of hooks and readily identifiable moments track to track. Where there’s a very nice combination of bass and quickly strummed guitar on “Quiero Olvidar”, the song doesn’t have a real chorus or gear shift to hang your hat on – it feels like a collection of similar sections placed one after the other. And sadly that’s a description that could apply to almost every song on the record; “Stress Test”, “Espejo”, “Crush” all just whiz by, a blur of tightly wound bass and drums and reverbed guitar, difficult to describe in detail after the fact.

Which isn’t to say that Bully is entirely without merit. There are a lot of smaller moments which show the band have some ideas and different tools at their disposal; see the funky cymbal pattern and kicks which make their way into “Her”, giving the track a bit of disco drama that buoys its icy synths. “Dance to Play” displays some real songcraft in how it deploys a half-time breakdown that gives its more straight-ahead sections more juice when they return by way of contrast.

How much you’re able to enjoy Bully will likely boil down to how much their particular aesthetic appeals to you; if you like this specific combination of foggy textures and meat-and-potatoes rhythm and movement, you may be able to overlook the dearth of catchy songs and moments to sink your teeth into. Otherwise, its a largely passable but unengaging release from a band who clearly know their identity and how to get it across, but need some stronger material to apply it to.

Buy it.