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Same Ol' Kooks
on September 22, 2011
Better known in their home country of England than they are in the United States, The Kooks debut record, "Inside In/Inside Out" was released in October 2006 in the U.S., 10 months after its initial release in the U.K.
With tracks like "Naïve" and "She Moves in Her Own Way" receiving a decent amount of radio play on independent stations across the United States, The Kooks developed a decent following, but did little to set themselves apart from the vast sea of bands with a similar musical formula like Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys.
After their second record, 2008's "Konk," was released, The Kooks ended up taking some time off, in part due to the departure of bassist Max Rafferty. Fortunately for The Kooks, this may have been what saved them. Around the same time of The Kooks' hiatus, most of their competition began to deviate from their established successful formulas into more experimental territory.
Kaiser Chiefs began to focus more on danceable beats, Arctic Monkeys teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme for a full makeover and seemingly countless British bands followed suit with new, uncharted paths.
While these bands all attempt to regain the fans they lost during their walkabouts, The Kooks have finally returned with an album that does little to separate itself from their past efforts, much to the delight of fans. That is not to say there is nothing new on this record, however.
Splitting the album in half is "Time Above the Earth," a string quartet driven track tied to The Kooks only by lead singer Luke Pritchard's voice. The tune is definitely surprising when hidden in the folds of a generally upbeat rock record, but "Runaway" quickly brings listeners back into familiar territory and "Time Above the Earth" becomes a welcome transition instead of a confusing new direction.
The opening tune, "Junk of the Heart" picks up right where "Konk" left off with a feel-good mix of acoustic and clean electric guitar, light drums, and Luke Pritchard's vocals. Pritchard sounds a bit more like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes on this record thanks to some extra effects added by Tony Hoffer, their longtime producer, but fans of either band will not likely complain.
As "Junk of the Heart" progresses, The Kooks begin to add in little changes here and there to keep things fresh, but the changes are not nearly as jarring as those made by their contemporaries. "Taking Pictures of You" adds in a wave of synths and reversed guitar effects, but the song easily remains radio ready with the acoustic guitar and vocals passing through production unscathed.
Even the album's closer, "Mr. Nice Guy," finds a familiar comfort in Pritchard's voice while the backing instrumentation is given the freedom to wander into the realm of distorted guitars and piano.
In the chorus of the title track, Pritchard sings "I wanna make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive." This could just as easily be a message for fans of The Kooks as it is for the subject of the song. Instead of experimenting with the formula that made them famous, The Kooks embraced it and returned with an album for their fans. "Junk of the Heart" is rarely original, but it is consistently enjoyable. Isn't that why we listen to music?
Similar Artists: The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys
Track Suggestion: "Junk of the Heart"