REVIEW: The Kooks – Junk of the Heart
Remember that time way back when you got into a band and didn’t stop listening to their CD (or at least half of their CD) on repeat for the longest time because you felt like their music was really your music? Back in my last years of high school I started listening to The Kooks‘ Inside In/Inside Out and almost everything about it got its playthroughs nightly on bus rides home from work and in online gaming sessions at home. While Konk (their second album) had its charms as well, The Kooks, like The Arctic Monkeys, had that certain ineffability at the time– they were one part a bit reckless, another part infectious– and they seemed to be all mine. Of course, I was naive (ha!); a lot of people listened to The Kooks…just not around me.
But I’ve grown up…and The Kooks say that they’ve grown up too. For my own reasons I wasn’t really looking forward to their new album too much (it has been more than three years since Konk; had I outgrown them?) but I couldn’t resist a look at Junk of the Heart, if not to investigate and satisfy my curiosity, then out of gratitude.
And when I mean The Kooks have grown up, their sound is significantly more mature– you can tell with every song. We don’t get the frantic “Sofa Song” or even “Always Where I Need to Be” on Junk. Instead we get the well-composed tracks of a band on two feet, bracing for a stable future and clearing out their own junk. The lead-in track, also the title track, still has the band’s signature sound (from Luke Pritchard‘s vocals to the typical guitar riffs), so all is well in that regard.
Some songs like “How’d You Like That” may seem to come across as repetitive, but one man’s ‘repetitive’ is another man’s earworm. The Kooks have always had a couple of songs like this (remember “Shine On”? “Love It All”?) but really it sets them up well for concert performances and since the songs aren’t all that bad it’s welcome. Speaking of which, they’re in Toronto in November– you got your tickets yet?
If you’re looking for recommendations, look no further than the first single, “Is It Me?”, which is one of the poppier songs off the disc. I know some people who really like “Eskimo Kiss” and I have no qualms about it; I really like the reservedness of “Killing Me” and the serenading of “Petulia”, but these two aren’t the styles I’d expect to think of when I listen to the band. The first half of the album is probably more to your interest if you liked their older stuff. “Mr. Nice Guy” was my favourite song upon first listen– love the piano, love the vocals– it’s the way I want the Kooks to be.
A lot of these types of alternative rock bands come from the UK and a lot of them seem to run together. The Kooks came at an inopportune time but floated above the rest with a rather well-received, well-reviewed first album and they’ve manage to continue drifting through the years. Junk of the Heart is hardly a strong, hard-hitting album and perhaps the songs aren’t as catchy or impacting on first listen, but the CD is a lasting one if you take the time to let it grow on you.