The Kooks never seemed like an ambitious band. Their youthful sound was long based on giving the kids the easy sounds that they were looking for, and it reached it’s high point/nadir (depending on your point of view) with 2011’s Junk of the Heart (QRO review), a blandly enjoyable record. Yet this seemingly spent force has found more drive than they ever had before, bringing in funk, disco, and even gospel for Listen, a record that doesn’t pull off everything it’s trying to do, but is definitely trying.
Eschewing their cheery rock of prior records for disco-funk, albeit white boy disco-funk, Listen certainly makes more of an impact, and doesn’t lose any catch. It’s best when the band goes big, like with opener “Around Town” or mid-album piece “It Was London”, but can be done upbeat (“Town”) or down (“London”). It can get a little grating (“Are We Electric” is just a cheesy disco song), and the group is still too young to pull off greater stretches like the Spanish-influenced “Dreams” or “Sunrise”, but it’s more than The Kooks have ever tried to do before.
Years now from being the latest ‘hot young thing’ (there’s always a million more young things on the way), The Kooks have resurrected themselves from irrelevance (kind of akin to fellow once-hot young Arctic Monkeys did with last year’s AM), and just might have staying power.