Lonely Cat Records
Let's Go Sunshine
As much of a favourite as The Kooks have become over the years, even they need to try new things here and there. Though they certainly try to do so on this latest release, it feels like even they themselves are uncertain about their new direction. This mix of overproduced tones and uneven directions makes the record feel often disjointed or dishonest, even though the lyrics are not.
As a time-warped mix of chorus vocals and hopeful harmonies fade out from “Intro” the album kick into a much more aggressive state of rock. This finds “Kids” frustrated and roaring back with massive choruses that beg to be chanted back. Though they start to twist in a lot of bizarre tones into later verses, it rarely feels like these sections earn their ecstatic refrains. It’s hard to deny the powerful groove of “All The Time” but it does struggle however to feel like anything we haven’t heard before. This said, there’s enough sharp production and invigorating swells to keep it moving along and fun.
It’s a lot harder to ignore the straightforward pop of “Believe” however, as it really makes you notice what they’re doing. Though it contains a lot of The Kooks’ signature affectations and style, it feels more like an update of them than anything. There’s a lot more going on in “Fractured and Dazed” as The Kooks are able to make a much more interesting and surprising use of their effects. Through all the haze that their effects produce, they really make a song with much more depth. It’s hard to tell if The Kooks aren’t trying to parody music through all the lyrical tropes they run through at the outset of “Chickenbone.” Despite some of the fun chord clashing they bring out in the grooves, the track does end up feeling a lot more forgettable.
The Kooks bring out their usual tricks on “Four Leaf Clover” but strip away much of the album’s typical production tones to make it feel more essential and down their basic elements. Strangely enough, it’s this kind of simple joy that makes the rest of the album feel overproduced. The sparse tones of “Tesco Disco” let their strange use of effects feel exciting while taking The Kooks somewhere refreshingly explorative. However the open sound does leave the rather extended writing of the track feeling like a lot by the end. Luke Pritchard lends his eccentric delivery to a more honest track on “Honey Bee” for a song that’s every bit as cheesy pop as it is earnest. Weirdly bouncy, this throwback love song is made all the sweeter thanks to Pritchard’s father (Bob Pritchard) performing a kind of duet posthumously.
The lush tones return loudly on “Initials For Gainsbourg” while The Kooks finally use the heavy production style to try a couple new things in their bridges. It’s harder however to appreciate a lot of the song as it feels buried underneath far too much noise. What’s more perplexing is the punk rush on “Pamela” that’s both out of place and done fairly predictably. Despite the catchy vocal hooks, not even its fun story can really help it feel like an essential to the album. They cut back once again on “Picture Frame” where their most personal stories cut through, and the slow bleed of additional instrumentation serves the emotional weight of the song rather than feeling like a constant.
The Kooks do however manage to make a varied and fun sound on “Swing Low” where sharp guitars play against the heavenly string sounds for something classic with a bite. Even though you’ve definitely heard some of the hooks here, there’s such a joy to their delivery that The Kooks totally sell it. Luckily there’s a real hearty core to “Weight Of The World” that allows it to move through so many phases of sound without ever feeling too much. Though the Kooks close out on a more downbeat pop note for “No Pressure” there’s at least a sense of play in their arrangements to offer something interesting.
Words by Owen Maxwell