The Kooks - Konk
Review by Jack Foley
MUCH has been made by critics recently about The Kooks lack of coolness. I don’t know why. For me (and perhaps this makes me a huge geek), they’re one of the coolest bands on the planet right now.
Debut album Inside In/Inside Out was, for my money, a better, more enduring and more consistently enjoyable album than the Arctic Monkeys’ breakthrough, while the easy accessibility of hit singles such as She Moves In Her Own Way, Naive and Ooh La has ensured they’re as fresh and sing-along today as they were upon release in 2006.
If anything, their brand of catchy songwriting bears comparison to the likeability of bands like The Beatles and The Kinks. And so it is with sophomore album, Konk, that the formula continues to winning effect.
Comprised of 13 songs, the new long-player endears itself from the very first listen and just continues to get better. It’s guitar-based indie-pop that’s packed with melody, overloaded with simple but effective choruses and a feel-good vibe that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and leave it there (is it any coincidence that the last line on the LP is “I feel fine”?).
The Kooks have had their difficulties, of course, and the path to a second album hasn’t been easy, especially in light of the departure of bassist Max Rafferty and the various potshots that have been made at their expense. But when it comes down to the music, it’s a real good-time record that captures the “dynamic” sound they admit they wanted to create.
Opening with upbeat salvo See The Sun, which sets the template in emphatic fashion, it then careers into the guitar rush and “do, do, doo”‘s of former single Always Where I Need To Be – a signature track, for sure, but a damn fine listen.
There’s a genuinely breezy vibe surrounding the lush acoustics, handclap beats and upbeat melodies of Mr Maker, while Do You Wanna is positively alive with vibrant hooks and a slightly gutsier feel that’s evidence of the more accomplished, fuller sound they’ve clearly developed over the past couple of years of touring.
The provocative lyrics (“do you wanna make love to me, I know you wanna”) are certain to sound like a rallying call to the more promiscuous fan club members. But it’s every bit as effective an anthem as something like The Stones’ Let’s Spend The Night Together, with added grit coming from the explosive guitars late on.
There are occasions when the album is content to operate on cruise control, such as the pedestrian Gap and Down To The Market, but even then it remains a good listen and there’s always another highlight waiting in the wings.
Love It All, for instance, is packed with some fine vocal layering and some juicy guitar riffs that hint at a more complex sound (it’s an album highlight), as does Sway, with its electrifying guitar solo and Luke Pritchard’s emphatic vocals. Such tracks make a mockery of Kasabian’s claim that The Kooks write songs for girls.
Shine On, meanwhile, combines a self-knowingly kooky melody with some Beach Boys harmonising and a darker lyricism (“why do you bite the hand that feeds you?”). And One Last Time emerges as a late favourite to once again demonstrate the band’s progession – the lovelorn lyrics, pained sense of reflection and haunting, Shins-style vocal harmonies surely bound for the soundtrack of a Zach Braff movie like Garden State. It’s a cracking record.
Come final tracks Tick of Time, with its demo-style intro and quasi-reggae vibe, and the All Over Time, with its slow-burning tempo and nicely judged horn section, you’ll be revelling in the album’s dynamism and feel-good glow. It’s a cracking sophomore effort that embraces all the qualities that helped to make them so successful, whilst laying down some impressive markers for the future. And, yes, it’s a cool – even essential – addition to any record collection.
Download picks: Sway, Love It All, Shine On, One Last Time, Tick of Time, Always Where I Need To Be, Do You Wanna, Mr Maker
- Buy the 2CD version (HMV)
- Buy the single CD version (HMV)
- Buy the 2CD version (Amazon)
- Buy the single CD version (Amazon)
- The Kooks talk Konk
- Inside In/Inside Out reviewed