Deep down, the Kooks wish they were famous in 1968 instead of 2008. Their name comes from a David Bowie album; their album’s title (Konk) is taken from Ray Davies’s studio. They sing about love, love, love (it’s all you need, you know) and dress like they walked out of the Beggar’s Banquet liner notes. But in 2008, they merely sound like a hundred other bands just like them that think that, like, hey, the ’60s were really, really cool.
Not that’s necessarily a bad thing; the 90’s Britpop movement mined the ’60s pretty effectively. Except where Britpop bands offered a wink and a nod to their predecessors, the Kooks feel that the entire genre can be whittled into their own tight jeans brand of machismo.
With lead single “Always Where I Need to Be,” the band returns to the territory they mined for a minor hit with “Naïve” in 2006. Guy sings to girl, she loves him because he is so awesome because he’s always there for her. And how can you not love king Kook Luke Pritchard when he’s stuttering out lines like, “I’m a man, and I can be so obscene/ Because I always think that I know how to be,” like it’s the most important thing that has ever been uttered by a practitioner of the English language?
While Inside used self-mythology to push the band to the Top of the Pops, Konk concerns itself with relationships and stuff. And that stuff is mostly love, lots and lots of love. According to the Kooks, love feels like stormy weather (“Stormy Weather”) and you have to be prepared to love it all (“Love it All”). Pritchard begs you not to go, cause he loves you and needs to get you between the sheets (“Gap”) and he implores you, don’t you want to make love to him (the Franz Ferdinand rip-off, “Do You Wanna”)?
This love-in is supposed to make the Kooks endearing to listeners (namely fourteen-year-old girls), but instead it serves to make them seem like detached and vacuous. They’re only concerned with love as a pose until they get that girl to fall for them. They have no use for her afterward.
Konk is most obviously a pop album (Pritchard even admitted as much). The intended purpose here was to sell records to as many people as possible. That’s why you’ve got the mindless hooks, no songs named “Jackie Big Tits,” no soul, and no unique personality to speak of. The Kooks may not be as bad as some of their sub-sub-Libertines NME brethren (looking at you fellas in the View, Razorlight and Kasabian), but when there plenty of British bands beating them at their own game (the Ordinary Boys and the Futurheads, to name two of many), the Kooks come off like a Ringo to most of Britpop’s Paul.