The Kooks | Junk of the Heart (Astralwerks)

After more than a few listens, the album's title begins to seem eerily descriptive of what awaits.



The Kooks are a band with one foot planted firmly in the past. Take their name, for starters, which came from the 1971 David Bowie song, “Kooks.”

Vocalist Luke Pritchard has an affable, lazy singing style, inviting and consuming, if not wholly original. The band’s 2006 debut, Inside In/Inside Out, launched them into the Brit pop-loving public, and rightfully so. The album is a lush blend of catchy, cocky, and poppy indie rock, with Pritchard’s vocals sliding effortlessly over addictive, snappy guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The following year, sophomore release Konk upheld the high standards set by its predecessor. Widespread licensing further elevated the Kooks’ visibility and standing.

Now, after a four-year wait, the Kooks have returned with Junk of the Heart. It’s apparent that, during the break, the band members took a look inside in an attempt to (re)define themselves. What they found was a break from the modern jangle and an embrace of the oldies.

From the get-go, “Eskimo Kiss” tells the listener this is not your ’00s Kooks. Though the intro track is catchy enough, it still sounds more old than new. Rather than offering something fresh, “F**ck the World Off” draws from old-school groove. And though “Taking Pictures of You” takes its cues from the Beatles, it doesn’t show enough depth to be remarkable.

Among the album’s catchier tunes is “Is It Me.” While it doesn’t reach the infectious levels of the band’s prior work, it nonetheless shows that the Kooks are still in there…somewhere. “Runaway” has its own sound; even though it’s different than the band’s prior releases, it’s got an insinuating undertone that gives me hope. Also proving at least a bit more memorable is the upbeat “Mr. Nice Guy.”

Songs like “How’d You Like That,” “Junk of the Heart (Happy),” “Killing Me,” and “Petulia” are mellow and bland, with much of nothing to set them apart. Rosie” threatens to break out on the refrain but, as with most else on this album, doesn’t succeed. The string introduction to disc-closer “Time Above the Earth” is noteworthy, at least—even if the rest of the song isn’t.

And, let’s face it: The disc’s title is not doing the band any favors, either. After more than a few listens (I’m trying to give the band the benefit of the doubt, to write my review based on more than a first impression), it begins to seem eerily descriptive of what awaits. C | Laura Hamlett 

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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