CD Review of Konk by The Kooks
Recommended if you like
The Strokes, Maximo Park, The Kinks
Label
Astralwerks
The Kooks: Konk

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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U
pon first hearing the second track (“Always Where I Need to Be”) on The Kooks’ new album Konk, all I could think was, “Gee, these guys are trying to sound like the Kinks.” Of course, when I saw the album’s title, I also thought of Ray Davies, and that’s all correct, since the “Konk” in question here is definitely Ray’s own studio. Now that that’s all cleared up, it’s also safe to say that the Kooks are not mining the classic sound of the Kinks here, but some of their lesser mid-‘70s work. No matter, because listening to the rest of the album brings to mind the sound of other groups being watered down, making Konk one of those releases that won’t really matter in the long run.

So the big question is why? Why ape bands like Maximo Park (“See the Sun”) who are contemporaries? It’s just not that interesting to listen to a group who wears its influences so obviously on its sleeves and doesn’t really take them anywhere. These days, you definitely need some sound to get peoples’ attention and keep it held there. Just tossing off piffle like “Mr. Maker,” with its already played out bouncy rhythm and generic British sound, isn’t good enough. Yet it will undoubtedly be good enough to those with short attention spans who don’t necessarily care what they’ll be listening to three months from now. The Kooks are to today’s world what Herman’s Hermits was to the British Invasion of the ‘60s.

“Do You Wanna” stretches for that rock and roll brass ring, but something about it sounds forced and forgotten. Maybe it’s the streamlined production by Tony Hoffer, featuring that overused tightly compressed technique that seems all the rage these days. Maybe it’s the way the song sounds like it should rock, but doesn’t. Or maybe it’s just simply because the song isn’t very good, period. Not that it’s terrible, mind you. It’s just simply average. Yet that’s exactly how this whole album feels. Can anyone truly get excited over The Kooks? If so, then how?

The Kooks

Especially when we’re treated to such clichéd images as “put a spanner in the works” on “Gap,” as well as Luke Pritchard’s annoying whine as he pleads “please don’t go, don’t go” as the rest of the band stops, leaving only Pritchard and his guitar to cry. No, Luke, she is definitely going to leave, especially with singing like that. But hey, the band soon gets back into bouncy same-old, same-old land with “Stormy Weather” and melodies that could feature prominently in a Target ad. And maybe that’s just the shot in the arm that this album needs. After all, it worked like crazy for Jet and their first album, if you’ll recall.

Not that things get any more engaging when the band goes semi-acoustic on tracks like “Love It All” and “Sway.” The former stays pretty clean-cut while the latter suddenly turns on its heels and an obnoxious guitar solo explodes into the track, bulldozing everything in its path. That good old sledgehammer subtlety. It sounds awkward and doesn’t really elevate the song to the dramatic heights that the band seemed to be hoping for. But then again, nothing here really goes above average at all.

Konk could have been an enjoyable album if the Kooks had only tried a little harder. Instead, we’re left with a rather bland release that sounds like it doesn’t really want to be bothered. You can file it under “generic Britpop” and forget all about it after you’ve heard it a couple times. It seems the only thing the Kooks took away from recording at Konk Studios was the influence of the latter-day Kinks themselves, who haven’t put out a truly great album in decades. Preservation: Act 3, anyone?

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