It’s true, ever since The Kooks released their debut album Inside In/Inside Out (which reached number 2 in the UK album charts in 2006), they haven’t really been as apparent in the spotlight as the good old days of indie rock, when songs like “Naive“, “The Sofa Song” and “She Moves In Her Own Way” were the must have accompaniments to any late night BBQ with college chums and crate loads of beer.
But with such a committed fan base and an ever growing following, being a band that could be seen to have taken a step back from the limelight, hasn’t stopped the four piece indie rock ensemble from Brighton, bringing out yet another album overflowing with contrasting genres, brand new concepts and tunes that rival some of their classic hot summer sun kissed tracks of 2006.
Listen, The Kooks fourth studio album is the first album to be released in over three years and features new drummer Alexis Nunez from Golden Silvers. The record offers a melting pot of genres, from Jazz, R&B and Gospel, to of course a substantial dose of good old indie rock guitar vibes, delivered by guitarist Hugh Harris.
From the word go, frontman Luke Pritchard guides the group into an array of radically changing styles, which, can only be a healthy pursuit for such an ever flourishing band and a strong statement of free choice within their writing. In one recent interview Prichard stated, “with this record we didn’t do any rehearsing beforehand. I’d write a song, put it up and we’d all play over it. There was a real freedom to the process“. This almost certainly shows throughout the album’s track list.
The boys released “Down” as their first single on the 20th of April, which (and I can probably speak for a lot of us) materialized from nowhere and turned out to be yet another ‘kookie’ surprise. According to some online sources this track reportedly “divided fans”, which is no surprise considering the complete contrast of genre it presents, let’s just say it’s not what you might call the standard ‘kooks’ style.
“Down” showcases the bands tastes in Funk, R&B and Hip-Hop, mainly relayed through the grooving R&B-fashion drum loop that pulses throughout the 2:41 minute-long track, which by commercial standards is quite a short amount of time for a single. With added light funk, licking guitar riffs and the pleasingly indolent tongued vocals of Pritchard, I have to say its catchy lyrical simplicity is certainly a brain sticker. Such a surprising choice for an album’s first single release, but coming in at #40 on the UK single charts isn’t something to be sniffed at, especially for any ‘alternative’ band these days.
For a more original ‘kooks-esque’ sounding track, if that’s the sort of thing your hoping for, I would recommend the track “Bad Habit“. Although this song presents similar elements found within ‘The Kooks’ earlier music (certain rhythms and melodies on albums Inside In/Inside Out and Konk to be more specific), this song is probably as close as you’re going to get to the lads prior examples of work – again, another positive example of how they are ever developing musicians.
Experimental changes in genre will always take place with any band or musician that really care about what they do and where they aim to go, it’s the forever existing search for improvement and challenge. Tracks like “Bad Habit” lay down the kind of grimey tough edged guitar scratches and basement drumming back beats that most commercial indie rock loving ‘children’ would ‘expect’ from The Kooks. But for their true followers, I believe it’s the bands ever changing direction of styles, that will really keep the loyal fans intrigued and anchored to the heart of The Kooks for good.
Overall Listen is a well thought out album with a little slice for everyone. If you’ve always had a soft spot for The Kooks and want to taste something completely original and made with love, this is worth your time. From 70’s electro style track “Westside“, to the melancholy tones of “Dreams“, to the jazz and soul influenced finale “Sweet Emotions“, Listen could be this years sweet-tempered surprise.
Purchase: The Kooks – Listen (iTunes)