The Kooks Go In A New Direction For Their Fourth Studio Album
September 17th, 2014 by Lauren Puleo
Release Date: 9/8/14
Well, well, well, it looks like the Kooks are gettin’ kind of funky here. Listen has been described as having some ska and even hip-hop influences from this traditionally indie rock band from Britain. This is such a deviation from their norm that if Luke Prichard didn’t have such a unique voice, this album wouldn’t even be recognizable as the Kooks. Because of that, this newest release rubs some people the wrong way, but personally I can dig it.
The Kooks were formed in 2004 in Brighton, East Sussex. After undergoing multiple line-up changes, the current roster stands at Luke Pritchard on vocals and guitar, Hugh Harris on lead guitar and synth, Alexis Nunez on drums, and Peter Denten on bass. Since 2006 with the release of Inside In/Inside Out, these guys have reliably been pumping out albums every two to three years.
Their latest release, Listen, came out just last week on September 8th, 2014 through Virgin/EMI records. As mentioned above, this album certainly has a different sound than past Kooks records, but that doesn’t stop these guys from dropping hit tracks. Throughout the album, these British rockers utilize a big choir to fill out their songs, and they introduce the listener to this right off the bat. The first track, “Around Town”, begins with the choir, and we don’t even hear Pritchard come in until almost forty seconds later. While this might be a turnoff to some listeners the first time they listen, I would encourage you to hear these guys out. You can’t go into this album expecting it to be just another Kooks album. These guys are evolving, and you just have to go along for the ride. I promise, you’ll end up somewhere just north of Awesome.
The most notable track on this album has to be the sixth one, “Bad Habit”. In this song, they strike that golden zone where the choir doesn’t overpower the lead vocals, but it still feels natural and appropriate. The song relies heavily on a variety of percussive sounds in addition to the vocals, and could actually probably be performed without any other melodic instrument. Don’t get me wrong though, I love that grungy, filtered guitar sound, too.
This album has stuff for fans of the “old Kooks”, too. The guys slow down on the fourth track on the album, “See Me Now”, which reminds older fans of songs like “Seaside” off Inside In/Inside Out. Although if we’re being totally honest, I think “See Me Now” would have been a bit better if they had slowed it down just a bit more and stuck with just the piano and vocals. Like most other songs on the album, they wanted to take advantage of that choir and blow it up to something bigger at the end. It definitely works, but I’m just waiting for an acoustic version of this song to come out, and when it does, I’ll be the first one to buy it.
All in all, Listen is a solid release by these British rockers. It wasn’t what most people would have expected, which is kind of what adds to its appeal. The Kooks are keeping it fresh, and they’re not afraid to step on some toes along the way. If you want to achieve something great, you have to take some risks, and the Kooks took a big one with this album. In my opinion, it paid off.