Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Kooks - Listen

With the high-spirited Behind The Force Choir heralding its arrival on the opening track, it’s clear that Listen is going to be different from what we’ve learned to expect from The Kooks. The band has dabbled in different styles on previous efforts, but this album, released last year, is almost a complete makeover. At times, Listen answers the question, “What would four English working-class lads sound like if they tried to become Prince?” Funky rhythms and playful keyboards flow throughout these 11 tracks with varying degrees of success.

“Around Town,” the previously mentioned first song, is a gospel-fueled call for people to avoid violence and get involved with the world around them, while the optimistic “Are We Electric” evokes successful Brit techno bands like the Kaiser Chiefs. “Forgive And Forget” authentically recreates the fun and irresistible grooves of The Purple One. “Sunrise,” on the other hand, feels like a calculated attempt at a dance club hit single, and the “Down down diggy de down” singing on the mercifully short “Down” is just plain annoying.

The danger on Listen is that the amiably eccentric Kooks could lose their identity. The romantic “Westside” and imaginative fantasy “Dreams” are engaging but could have easily done without the synth embellishments. Luckily, “See Me Now,” a heartfelt tribute to a deceased father, is left uncluttered, while the compelling protest of “It Was London” is set to a gritty mix of acoustic and electric guitars. Listen has its adventurous attributes, but here’s hoping The Kooks’ core strengths are back in full force on their next effort. 


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