September 14, 2011

Test Spins: The Kooks, Junk of the Heart

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Brit-pop band The Kooks’ third studio album, Junk of the Heart, was released last week by Virgin Records. The album has been in the making for two years and, according to frontman Luke Pritchard, was written during a particularly trying period for the band (what album isn’t?).

Their previous album, Konk, was presumptuously Beatles-esque and a bit flailing. The band’s self-proclaimed intention for the album was earning radio play and this left many fans with a bitter taste in their ears. The format, tone and recycled guitar lines may have earned some radio play, but this came with critical commentary calling the album “contrived” (BBC Music).

Their goals for Junk of the Heart came off as reactionary; they essentially reiterated their feelings of pop-stardom entitlement. There was a lot of talk of being “inspired by [so-and-so]”; translated: “our attempt at getting radio play backfired and cost us radio play, so we’re writing a more organically inspired album to counteract our reputation as radio-whores and earn ourselves more radio play.”

As expected: every song is catchy. While “catchiness” can be a pejorative term in circles of music criticism (possibly the result of suspicious consumers and their exposure to disingenuous radio-whores), catchiness is nonetheless a complimentary descriptor. But it’s not an inventive catchiness: there’s nothing new or interesting about the sound. However, if the reverb, the pace and the speedy baselines got your foot tapping on Inside In/ Inside Out or Konk, there’s a good chance that Junk of the Heart will have the same effect.

The album’s pretty evenly divided between songs that make you feel like you’re running and glassy-eyed ruminations about loves-gone-by. It’s not an engaging listen: it’s cliché-laden and painfully radio friendly,  but it’s still sort of fun (I guess). The title track is sure to get some radio play: it’s pleasant.

The album’s standout track is the first 40 seconds of “Is It Me?”. This glorious little intro features a Phoenix-like intro drone and a drum-and-bass rhythm that’s cool enough to reconcile the lyrical triteness. Unfortunately, the full band comes in at the 40-second mark, there’s a whole lot of noise and commotion, and before the listener has a chance to appreciate the intro, they’re tossed unwillingly into a painfully predictable chorus.

It’s music, it’s art: your experience with it depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it. For what it’s worth, I thought it was lame.

Original Author: Nathan Tailleur