Friday, September 26, 2008

The Kooks -- Konk (2008)

The Kooks -- Konk (Astralwerks)

Britpop never dies. It mutates and disguises itself, but there never seems to be a time when there aren’t quartets and quintets of shaggy haired young Englishmen trying to follow in the footsteps of oh so many British Invaders.

The Kooks have developed a following on both sides of the Atlantic. Generally, these four lads seem to draw major cues from Oasis and The Kinks, but the latter inspiration is more superficial than they might realize. Which doesn’t mean these guys aren’t savvy enough to lift a little bit from the 21st Century wave of post-punkers.

It doesn’t hurt that lead singer Luke Pritchard has a voice that, at times, is similar to Paul Smith of Maximo Park. Indeed, "Down to the Market" makes an excellent stopgap for Maximo Park fans waiting for a new album from their heroes. This short, punchy song has a catchy, rubbery guitar riff, and hits crescendos in a manner similar to those Parksters. The only difference is that instead of a keyboard, The Kooks rely on guitar effects for some texture. It’s a really good track and if you’re going to borrow a sound, crib from the best.

I wish more tracks had that energy. There are number of pleasant mid-tempo songs that lack either a good chorus or memorable lyrics. Or both. This is exemplified by the bluesy pop track "Gap". What makes this song more than average is the great guitar work by Hugh Harris, whether it’s the blues fills in the verses, or the exciting instrumental break that acts as an emotional release. Otherwise, the track almost stands in place.

It’s not that The Kooks aren’t capable of the indelible hook. "Shine On" is a track in the vein of Del Amitri and other respectable smart UK rockers. The chorus is nothing innovative, but it’s easy to sing along to and flows perfectly from the verse. Sometimes it can be so simple.

But, of course, it’s not so simple. There is talent here, no doubt. There’s not nearly as much inspiration. If you’re not a Brit pop completist, you can skip this one.

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