The Kooks – Junk of the Heart

On my first listen and my subsequent listens to Junk of the Heart I’ve been left with a sense of confusion that to me seems to be what the album was born out of. It begins in a very classic Kooks’ way, “Junk of the Heart (Happy)” is a three-minute piece of joyful, bouncy indie-pop that you expect will set the tone for the album. However, this is not the case. My preconceptions of this album where genuinely turned upside down and inside out, though not in a particularly favourable way. The thing is, after the first track you almost expect a ‘more of the same from The Kooks’ kind of album but that’s not what you get. The album instead tries to mould the way the listener approaches The Kooks into something more mature and, dare I say it, ‘serious’.

This is exactly where the album falls down for me. It’s evident The Kooks wanted to do something different with this album, but it seems to me that not even they are sure what they wanted to do. There is a sound on most of these tracks that has this retro feel, the problem being that it’s just about every type of retro they could find. There are 80s-style synths littered throughout a great number of the tracks but mixed with Beatlesesque harmonies (listen out for the Twist & Shout ‘ah ah ah’s on Mr. Nice Guy). It’s as though somebody handed them a great big recipe book for retro sounding albums and rather than sticking to one recipe they’ve ended up with dauphinoise in their black forest gateau. I like dauphinoise, I like black forest gateau; never the twain shall meet.

Another major problem with this album for me is the sheer desperation of The Kooks to shed their label as “joyful indie rockers” and become something more grown up. Now I’m not against a band changing their sound or their style, in fact I love it when they do, but it needs to be done properly. To me this all seems a bit contrived, this desire to make a mature Kooks album doesn’t feel genuine rather it comes across as a pretty transparent facade. The string arrangements and the synthesisers are found in a number of tracks to give a moody, atmospheric feel to the track but Luke Pritchard’s boyish vocals and clumsy lyricism immediately destroy any sense of seriousness or reflectiveness. There are songs on here that are blatant attempts to show the listener that they’re not going to get what they expect because The Kooks have been reborn as musical philosopher-kings and, with the help of some eerie sounding synths and some chunky baselines, they’ve got something important and incredibly deep to convey. However, for me it doesn’t work and songs like “F**k The World Off” are, quite frankly, laughable.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some good aspects of this album. The production is excellent and each track bursts forward with force and vigour sounding fuller and more interesting than the album’s predecessors. There are a few good tracks, my personal favourite being “Is It Me“, that give you this full, energetic and new sound that perhaps they were aiming for. The difference here being that rather than seeming contrived the song feels more like a natural progression from the first two albums. The problem is that these good moments are not highlighted, instead they are given the challenge of trying to stick out and be noticed whilst surrounded by oceans of mediocrity.

Ultimately, Junk of the Heart doesn’t really do a lot for me. If it wasn’t so hellbent on being something more than it is then I think there was potential here for a good album. However, it doesn’t really know what it wants to be; trying to cover all the bases by sounding retro, mature, moody and fun all in one. The result is rather disappointing. If you’re a big Kooks fan then I must admit you’re probably going to like this but for me, it doesn’t really sound like the result of three years work.

2.0/5.0 

Joseph

                                                          

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Friday will be the first ever ‘Thoughtful Fridays’ blog post, so make sure you don’t miss it.

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