Do you remember when The Kooks were one of the biggest bands around? Yeah, me too. Just. Their debut album, Inside In/Inside Out was a huge success and secured their place at the forefront of the UK indie scene. Follow ups Konk and Junk Of The Heart were a little less successful to put it nicely. Granted, there was a few decent tracks but it just didn’t satisfy us in the way their debut did. Listen is the band’s fourth LP. Our first taster of their new sound and direction was the single Down. I absolutely hated it when I first heard it and wasn’t looking forward to hearing the new album whatsoever. Turns out…I was being “so naive, yes so…” (See what I did there?)
Around Town has the difficult job of being the first song on the album. This is where we know in a minute or two if we’re going to have our attention hooked throughout the full album. Well; Around Town certainly does the job for me. It’s harmonious, catchy and has some excellent guitar riffs and even better percussion showcasing new drummer, Alexis Nunez who joined the band in 2012 replacing Paul Garred. I absolutely loved the Kooks when their first album was released and I’m the only person I know who didn’t mind the second and third. Despite this, I’d never got to see them live until I witnessed them perform at Leeds Festival this year. This track off the new album was one of the most memorable and having the gospel choir in the background live made it even more atmospheric and true to the studio version.
Next up is Forgive & Forget. Unfortunately, out of the two options, I want to forget this song. Definitely one of the poorer songs on the album. To be honest, I don’t really have much to say about this one but I’ve just done some research (I looked on google) and read that this is the third single? How and why, I’ll never know but it’s not my choice!
Track 3 makes up for the poor effort before it and samples to us that this album may be made up of various music genres. Westside feels an ode to the bands lifestyle in the states where they now reside and where the album was produced. Might be worth noting here that this is the first Kooks album that Luke Pritchard has co-produced allowing a more personal vibe to the whole thing. My only gripe would be every time “westside!” is said, I continue to say “is the best” and feel contracted to make a ‘W’ with my hands.
Making me feel even more so that this album is more personal with Luke Pritchard’s producing credit is next track, See Me Now. This is a beautifully worded song. It’s a song about Pritchard’s father who passed away when he was young. It’s heartfelt, passionate and emotional. Fair play for writing and including such a personal song.
Sadly, we ‘re hit with another poor song, It Was London. I don’t know what London did but I don’t think a whole city needs to be punished with such a poor track. Some people might like it but it does nothing for me whatsoever. I can’t praise it and I can’t criticise it. I just find the whole 3:12 confusing.
A bad habit. We all have them. It’s also the name of the next track. Bad Habit was another song they performed live at Leeds Festival. The album hadn’t yet been released and nobody knew the words but luckily, there’s some catchy backing vocals we can all join in with instantly and some even more catchy drumming we can clap to. It also shows a more funky side to the band and allows us all to have a little boogie.
Down. The track I absolutely hated when my ears first had the then displeasure of hearing it. Now, I find myself singing the chorus “down down diggy de down down diggy diggy” even when I’m not listening to the song. It’s one of the catchiest parts of the album. I still don’t love the song but it’s a fun experimental few minutes. At least it’s not Forgive & Forget!
Reminiscent of a lot of their older, non-single tracks, Dreams is an odd song. It sounds like it was recorded during a crowded pub gig and the track feels…rushed. That’s putting it politely. On a second listen, it feels like a filler track but throws the rhythm of the album off course slightly.
A new album without electro is more shocking than Oscar Pistorius being found not guilty of murder (topical!) and The Kooks have followed the recent electro trend. Aptly named, Are We Electric is a synth heavy track reminding me of something Empire of the Sun would create. It’s another one of those where it’s not good. But it’s not bad either. (There appears to be a few of those on this album)
Penultimate track, Sunrise has a lot going on. Clapping, numerous instruments and a little bit of Caribbean feel to it. It’d make for an excellent road trip song. But I don’t currently drive so…to me, I can’t relate. The riffs are excellent though and every time I hear, some part of my body will move whether it’s a subtle nod of the head or a bit of foot tapping.
One thing’s clear from this album, the instrumental skills of the band have definitely matured, as has the songwriting ability of Luke Pritchard. Sweet Emotion is an example of this and it’s a nice ending to the album as a whole. I read somewhere recently that there was a rumour of the band splitting at some point after this album, I personally hope that isn’t true because I’ll always have a soft spot for The Kooks and even when they do have a bad song, I can’t help but forgive them. I for one, look forward to what they can produce in the future. Anyways, now you’ve read this, I think you should go and listen. To Listen.
Words by Robert Smith (@robertmsmith)