Design By Humans
Published On: Wed, Sep 17th, 2014

The Kooks: Listen

the kooksThe Kooks
(Virgin EMI)

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Listening to the latest album by British rock quartet The Kooks, it’s hard to recognize them as the same band that put out jangly pop albums like Junk of the Heart or Konk. But it’s somewhat understandable. During the three years between Junk and Listen, a lot changed in music. Pop stars and indie rockers alike have embraced a multitude of styles from ’80s-inflected pop, ’90s R&B, and slinky disco, often all in the same song. So the fact that The Kooks decided to switch things up for their fourth album isn’t all that surprising, even if the choices they made in doing so didn’t always work so well.

Teaming up with young hip-hop producer Inflo, the band expands their palate to include more electronic sounds, bigger instrumental arrangements, and a looser approach to song form. Sometimes this works really well, as on the opening disco-rock (with some gratuitous gospel choirs) track “Around Town” or the lo-fi Danger Mouse-esque “Dreams.” Other times, less so, like the retro psych rock of “Bad Habit” and “It Was London.” But mostly, it’s exciting to watch a good band try new things. Luke Pritchard’s vocals sound as ecstatic as ever, and even if they never reach the heights of The 1975’s self-titled album (their obvious model for Listen), they’re clearly having fun, and that makes it worth it.

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The Kooks: Listen