Messy and meandering, surely this third album isn’t the product of three years’ work?
Natalie Shaw 2011-09-12
The Kooks’ 2006 debut LP, Inside In/Inside Out, has sold an outstanding two million copies; their 2008 follow-up Konk entered the charts at the top, taking the number one spot from Duffy. There’s little doubt, however, that time has diluted the effectiveness of Luke Pritchard’s once attractively fey yet laddish squawk. While common sentiment in a song can still paralyse the purse-strings, The Kooks’ gormless image and strained ambiguities now feel even more cynical.
Junk of the Heart seems to want to transport The Kooks into adulthood, but it doesn’t know how. It’s certainly not through the lyrics – the obvious tack – because Pritchard’s lazy, nasal SATs-level similes are more gloryless than ever. Eskimo Kiss’ bewildering "She’s like the rose without a thorn / She’s like the sunflower that never looks back at the sun" offers the vision of a frontman desperately picking at half-rhymes to impress the teacher, more than anything else.
The Kooks’ best singles had vigour, silliness and gold-standard choruses, but there’s none of that here. Time Above the Earth is admirably futile and literal, detailing "a thousand thoughts flashing through my brain" mid-air on a flight, barely luxuriating in a tiny bath of pizzicato strings. Runaway aims briefly at the electric excitement of Mystery Jets’ second album before drowning in a mire of ska and Liam Gallagher-style mic-assaulting.
The highlights are Is It Me’s turbo-charged janglepop, and the jaunty and light 80s lounge-pop introduction of Killing Me, which quickly descends into X Factor Winning Song territory with the immortal line, "I know you didn't mean to creep into my dreams". Any hint at excitement on this album is quickly picked up on and thrown away, in favour of keeping the ‘serious band’ hook consistent. Mr. Nice Guy pickpockets David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, which certainly sounds like a band having a good time, but quickly becomes the opposite of fun.
There’s very little drive in Junk of the Heart, just a messy selection of meandering verses that surely can’t be the product of three years’ work. The misspelt words of the liner notes say it all, and quite why The Kooks’ terrible lyrics are showcased here at all is a wonder – it’s patronising even to loyal Kooks fans, surely. While token strings cut in on Runaway – and the leather jackets have been replaced by a more current double-denim look in the sleeve’s band shots – it seems that whoever had faith in this record had taken shelter long before its tracklisting made the final cut.