The Kooks return, but will they please the Ford Focus drivers and indie kids alike?
Let’s start with a fact. The Kooks debut album, Inside In/Inside Out, shifted over 1.5million copies and stayed in the charts for what seemed like an eternity. That is a fact. However that doesn’t mean it was any good.
Sure we overlooked the Brit School indie wannabe attitude for great tunes like Naive and Jackie Big Tits, but underneath it all was an album lacking any substance further than a few cracking summer tunes and a whole lot of filler.
So onto Konk then, recorded during the turmoil times just before bassist Max Rafferty left the band in January. And boy does it show.
Aside from the album’s opener, the wonderful See The Sun, that could’ve been lifted straight from the aforemetioned debut swooning along with the same summer breeze that carried tune like Seaside, Konk paints a picture of a band in serious disarray.
Despite the elusive Brit School education there is no textbook structure here, no winning formula. But that is just the point. Luke Pritchard never had a winning formula in the first place, no rock and roll masterplan and certainly indie no soul. Let’s be honest, despite what all the fourteen year olds at Glastonbury might think, he didn’t even have a decent hat.
While phrases like ‘second album syndrome’ are being banded around, the simple truth is The Kooks have finally been caught out. It is shame too because there are a couple of moments of that original brilliance, with the jaunty Mr Maker and the slightly more anthemic Sway sure to be straight on the Radio 1 playlist. The album’s hidden track too, the excellent stripped-back All Over Town is a marvel in simple songwriting, but by that point it is far too late for any plaudits.
Lead single Always Where I Need To Be showed the first troubling signs with its Fratellis-esque ‘do do doos’, grating lyrics and twee melodies. Similarly songs like the dreary Love It All and Shine On ache of a band desperately running out of ideas.
But it gets worse. While Inside In/Inside Out spawned six (yes 6) singles, there is certainly no danger of that from this second record. The final two tracks, One Last Time and Tick of Time, firmly hit the nail in the coffin many indie writers and fans have been building for years. The former makes you wonder quite how Pritchard manages to spew out cliched melodies and awful lyrics such as “A-B-C-D-E-F and G / Oh that reminds me of when we were free” without any right-minded producer noticing.
Tick Of Time, however, simply optimises everything wrong with the band. What starts out sounding like one their fantastic early acoustic demos, with its after the pub late-night feel, soon turns out to have precisely nothing below its alluring smoky exterior. In essence this is exactly where The Kooks have failed. There is no substance here, nothing of any merit, even if it will sell by the bucketload.
“I need your soul, cos you’re always soulful” sings Pritchard on Sway. It’s just a shame The Kooks haven’t found theirs.