The Kooks


Written by: HES on 01/10/2014 15:16:47

After a long silence since the barely noticeable release "Junk Of The Heart" in 2011, The Kooks are back and ready to reclaim the hearts they won with "Inside In/Inside Out" and the follow-up "Konk" - two albums that to this day still grace the playlists of this scribe. The band has not grown up really, but rather evolved: Where the hysterically popular records of the 00's were based on tongue-in-cheek lyrics and lo-fi guitar, "Listen" is a super mix of soul-inspired danceable Brit-rock living up to the latest funk/soul influences from pop-artists like Pharrel and Daft Punk. The result is at times impressively catchy but also at time giving off the impression of a band on autopilot.

The record opener "Around Town" lays it on heavily with a gospel-driven choir-intro, but the more modest verse, driven only by simplistic percussion and guitar, keeps the track grounded until the song completely takes off with a synth'ish bridge. Next track "Forgive & Forget" starts with a simple intro in the style of "Konk" but quickly enters into the same soul-vibe that comes to characterize the album. The cheeky lyrics and catchy refrains delivered by singer Luke Pritchard channelling a reincarnation of James Brown and there's even a little Beatles “Come Together” tucked up in chorus. The song reaches above your regular soul-rock with lines like "You say you need someone to love you, but it ain't me" tapping into the success of the former releases’ teasing lyrics.

Although “Listen” has its absolutely bright and brilliant moments it is contested by some of the songs like "It Was London" and "Sunrise" that seem to have no ambition at all, cycling in a lacklustre funk-mix with very few interesting parts. These songs end up being fillers in between the more energetic radio-hits. The tongue-in-cheek attitude that once made The Kooks stand out from their fellows back in their heyday is hard to detect through uninspired and repetitive lyrics. At first glance "Listen" is a firework of adolescent energy, but you quickly find yourself skipping the fillers to get forward to supreme tracks like "Down" that manages to combine Luke Pritchard's erratic singing style, well-thought lyrics and energetic soul-references, instead of giving more time to the only mediocre songs like the ballad of the record "See Me Now" that is if not drowning in banality, then seriously walking the line of half-decent and half-bad, predicates that are not in any way worth aspiring to get stuck with.

Where The Kooks were formerly a band that focused on lyrics and guitar in a simple yet highly functioning mix, "Listen" is the band's venture into the highly produced, multi-layered, popular rock-sphere. Whereas the success of "Inside In/Inside Out" and "Konk" was completely accidental because the scene merely found something they liked, "Listen" is a calculated attempt to achieve the same through playing to the band's energy. Unfortunately the focus on smash-hits makes half the record symptomatically boring or at best neglected. But if you can handle that the album sometimes blends with the background, you'll at least be awarded for your patience by a contagious happiness that at least protrudes from both the mediocre and brilliant parts.

Download: Down, Forgive & Forget, Around Town
For The Fans Of: Two Door Cinema Club, Maximo Park, One Night Only
Listen: Facebook

Release date 08.09.2014
Virgin EMI

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