I’m convinced that, save for jazz, the English will forever be in front of the eight ball when it comes to music. Take for example, Motorhead. There are three Motorhead albums that come to mind that essentially seals the group’s permanent place in rock and roll history: Overkill (1979), Bomber (1979) and Ace Of Spades (1980). These three albums produced three self-titled singles that listeners know at the drop of a hat. Lemmy’s bass and vocals are instantly recognizable and never let you down. What do Britain’s own indie rockers The Kooks have in common with heavy metal juggernauts, Motorhead? Well, they’re both English, that’s a given and they both sound great, which is also great. However to quote Motorhead’s “Bomber,” they shoot to kill and you know they always will.
The Kooks second offering, Konk, certainly catches people off guard, but for all the right reasons. On the opener, “See The Sun,” singer/rhythm guitarist Luke Pritchard sets the tone for the rest of the album. Vocally, he sounds more like a lost soul crying for help than a typical frontman. His delivery comes off very certain and piercing, almost as if he bends the music to its knees in getting his words across. This makes sense, due to the fact that the frontman overcame a speech impediment he developed as a young child.
Lead guitarist Hugh Harris intertwines excellent counterpoint melodies over Pritchard’s rhythm. He nails pentatonic scales left and right over Pritchard’s vocals which heighten the intensity even more. Paul Garred’s drumming adds just the right amount of push for the band to truly break forward and never look back.
The band follows this great musical wave with the Simon & Garfunkel influenced “Always Where I Need To Be,” “Mr. Maker” and dance hook laden “Do You Wanna.” The greatest thing this band has to offer (like most English bands do) are the hooks. The Kooks have more hooks in them than bass and trout do at a fisherman’s convention.
On “Always Where I Need To Be,” The Kooks sell the chorus while keeping their integrity:
“Say whatever you want
Oh, I could never judge you
Say whatever comes into your head
Oh, oh you know I just dont care
You know I just dont care
Cause Im always where I need to be
Yeah, and I always thought I would end up
with you, eventually
Do do do do do do do…”
Simplicity always works, and the “do’s” bring back memories of Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” The band knows their musical history well. “Do You Wanna” is a nice slice of sexual, snarling rock and roll for the ages. It’s raw enough to appeal to the rockers of the world, but has that pop edge Top 40 disciples can lick their lips over. The band, much like Parker Lewis, can’t lose. “Stormy Weather”, “Sway”, “Shine On” and “Down To The Market” continue in this vain as well.
The rest of the album follows musical hooks forming from raw ideas to a highway of killer cuts. The second album by the English indie rock quartet sounds merely like a greatest hits record than an album. It’s that good. What’s even just as great is the production. The band worked with producer Tony Hoffer, who’s known for producing The Thrills, Air, Beck and other artists. Hoffer does a great job at capturing the band in raw form, but also being able to cut away the frayed edges and still come out with a clean, wholesome musical product.
All in all, The Kooks certainly have a future. For their second offering, they will definitely turn heads in many different music lovers. Konk proves you can obtain a pop-oriented sound without compromising your musical integrity. All of the instrumentation on this album is done well and is never overbearing. Give them a spin because, it’s a bomber.
Check out the video for “Always Where I Need To Be”