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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

The Kooks' Konk will give you cool kicks

By Sarah Cook     5/15/08 7:00pm

Sometimes, you just want a band that you know will make you smile. A band that makes you feel like you're driving to the beach with the windows down. The Kooks are that band for me. With bouncing rhythm, dreamy English vocals and catchy lyrics, they are exactly what I needed after a few days of locking myself in the library. Their sophomore album, out last month, is named after the studio where they recorded: Konk Studio, founded by the Kinks. The album is a grown-up, relaxed version of their first album. While they don't pull out any new tricks, their sound is much tighter and more pulled together. The quality of the recording has improved immensely and you can tell that the absence of their original bassist hasn't hurt them much at all. They've grown up and stayed young, and it shows.The album begins with a slow fade-in on "See the Sun," with a little acoustic guitar and Luke Pritchard on slow vocals. At first, the amusing lyrics and simple style make me wonder if I have made a mistake. Am I listening to the new Pete Doherty album? Slowly, the album builds to the Kooks I know and love. Bouncy beats, fun hooks and, oh, those dreamy accents. I'm smiling. As I listen to this album, I know it's not the best technically or the most original, but my foot is tapping, and I have a huge grin on my face. The Kooks follow with an intoxicating dance song called "Always Where I Need to Be," which is made much richer by some experimental vocals and an invigorating bass. "Mr. Maker," the third track, brings up memories of the absurd anecdotal songs of The Beatles. This might be the best track on the album. Its simplistic chorus weaves with highly perceptive verses to make it certainly notable, if not memorable.

The weakest track comes a bit later. "Do You Wanna" is an uncomfortable try at an overtly sexual, snarky song that comes natural to bands like Goldfrapp and Louis XIV, but seems strained here. They've stepped out of their comfort zone, trying to be the sexy rock gods they dream of being, instead of the lovable nerds they are. It just does not work in my book. Other highlights make up for this misstep, especially "Stormy Weather," a great sing-along song with a beating chorus of "It feels like love, love, love." It certainly does. "Sway" also stands out as a welcome change in tone. It's the perfect song to play live, with a pulsing heavier rock feel that actually creates a swaying feeling.

When the album ends, it is quite clear that those who hated "Inside In/Inside Out" will hate "Konk" and those who loved it will love it. There is no intellectual babble, no voice-overs, no screaming, no pulsing and electronics. Yet, this album shows an evolution in the Kooks. They no longer seem as forceful about their breezy indie feel. They play around a little, and for the most part, it pays off. Some would call the Kooks a saccharine sweet, unoriginal "feel good" band. They certainly have a point. But sometimes, that's exactly what you need.

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