September 14, 2006

The New Kings of Brit-Rock

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Get ready, because if this is the first time you’ve ever heard about The Kooks, it’s definitely not going to be the last. The British foursome, all aged between 19 and 23, had not been playing together for more than three months when major labels began knocking on their dorm room doors at college this last year. And now with Inside In, Inside Out, you’ll be hearing about and hearing a lot of the Kooks in the months ahead.
The bright-eyed Brighton boys signed with music giant Virgin, putting them in the company of legends the Rolling Stones, a very obvious influence of the Kooks, especially audible on tracks like “Ooh La” and “She Moves in Her Own Way.” On “Ooh La,” they even repeat the word “pretty” over and over on the bridge, almost an homage to “Beast of Burden.” Their name itself is homage to the David Bowie song of the same name off of Hunky Dory.
However, these lads have impressive musical range with songs influenced by bands as varied as Sublime and Supergrass. In fact, lead guitarist Hugh Harris has proclaimed the Kooks are “musical whores,” and lead singer Luke Pritchard describes the band’s sound by saying, “We kind of do a bit of everything.” Though their music is often categorized as garage rock, “Matchbox” and “Naïve” certainly sound more like Sublime than the Strokes. The reggae-ska sound comes through loud and clear with the second and third verses of “Matchbox,” and the intro has the kind of bass from Max Rafferty that sounds positively funky.
Their longest song on Inside In, Inside Out is timed at a radio-friendly three minutes and thirty seconds, with many of the songs playing for only about two minutes. Catchy is their forte, and they draw you into each song immediately. Listen to “Eddie’s Gun” for ten seconds, for example, and you won’t want to hear anything else on your iPod for the next week, guaranteed.
The one classification everyone can agree upon for The Kooks is Brit-rock. Pritchard sings with an audible accent, muchlike Alex Turner of the Artic Monkeys. The overall sound of the two bands is very different though, contrary to the rumors. People who like Arctic Monkeys will probably like The Kooks too, but the sounds are not the same by any means. The Arctic Monkeys tend to be sparser both instrumentally and harmonically, with Turner singing solo for the majority of their songs. Pritchard gets backed up on most all of the songs vocally by his bandmates. In these differences, a comparison is almost out of the question.
As far as live shows go, The Kooks are currently making the rounds in Britain, but they have five U.S. dates starting in the final days of October: two dates in New York City and three in California. Take advantage of this leg of their tour if you can; they won’t be playing small venues for very long.
The Kooks say it best in the chorus of “Matchbox,”: “All of us, we’re going out tonight/ We’re gonna walk all over your cars/ The Kooks are out in the streets/ Oh we’re gonna steal your skies” Get ready for it.