The kids of The Kooks are cheerier on Konk, the follow-up to their smash 2006 U.K. hit, Inside In/Inside Out. The four youths from Brighton were skyrocketed to stardom with the single “Naïve” two years ago, and Konk has already surpassed Inside by reaching number one on the British charts – in its first week. The band is a little thin at times on their new album, and it lacks a standout track at the level of “Naïve”, but it’s undeniably enjoyable, from start to finish.
One thing The Kooks certainly have in spades are hooks, throwing out one catchy tune after another, whether sad like opener “See the Sun”, or bopping like the following single, “Always Where I Need to Be”. The upbeat nature of Konk shines through in the guitar upswing of “Sun”, but maybe gets a bit too bright and cheery at times, such as with the still catchy “Mr. Maker”. A better version of the sunny side of The Kooks can be found later on the relaxed “Shine On”.
The Kooks are a very young band – singer/guitarist Luke Pritchard wrote “Naïve” when he was only sixteen. So sometimes his lyrics can come off as kind of trite and lame, such as on the otherwise pressing “Do You Wanna” and the sadder, more flowing follower, “Gap”. He does better work on Konk’s final track, the in-studio strum-fun of “Tick of Time”, and the hidden piece that follows a minute later, “All Over Town”, a sad, stripped, Beatles-esque touch.
In the records late middle, The Kooks do stretch out a bit more. “Love It All” is a nice change with its country-strum sad and good guitar twang, while the following “Stormy Weather” is some wry-weary country-fun. “Sway” and “Down to the Market” play bigger and more powerful, really rockin’, though “Market” is a bit too quick, here-and-gone. But the best change on the album is with penultimate track “One Last Time”. Sad and echoing, really different, perhaps it would have served Konk better had it come earlier on in the record.
Any follow-up to a smash indie hit is a tricky business (just as The Strokes…), and The Kooks aren’t skilled enough yet to try and reinvent their sound, wisely sticking to what works. However, the sunnier nature of things, post-success, does bleed through a bit (which is a little surprising in some ways, as that was when the band also faced bassist Max Rafferty’s growing drug and alcohol problems, which led to his recent departure). Like blog-hit Tapes ‘n Tapes on their sophomore LP, Walk It Off (QRO review), The Kooks faced living up to a record that was probably overhyped to begin with. Konk isn’t going to bowl anyone over like Inside In/Inside Out did, but you can’t say it ain’t a nice listen.