Album: The Kooks, Konk (Virgin)
The Kooks may well be arrogant, humourless and easily dislikeable on any number of levels, as some say; but when was that ever a hindrance to success in rock'n'roll? The most important thing is that, when called upon to walk the walk as well as they talk the talk, they deliver the goods. Which is what they've done with Konk, named after Ray Davies's studio, where it was recorded.
Though not quite the classic-strewn masterpiece trumpeted by singer Luke Pritchard, there are enough potential hits here to keep singles charts occupied for the rest of the year, starting with opener "See the Sun", a jangly folk-rocker featuring a lead guitar line of great nervous energy. The current single "Always Where I Need To Be" is crafted with a similarly skillful grasp of pop classicism, and listening to "Love It All" (imagine The Small Faces' soulful power-pop with an animated Neil Young on lead guitar) it occurs to me that The Kooks have effectively managed to transform the classic Big Star sound into a more commercial proposition – no mean feat, a quarter of a century after it was devised.
Ironically, the main attraction in The Kooks' sound is not Pritchard – whose vocals on tracks like "Love It All" and "Do You Wanna" are as personably effusive as required, but little more – but lead guitarist Hugh Harris, as inventive in his own way as Johnny Marr or Bernard Butler, whether he's adopting a Little Beaver-ish tone to lighten the otherwise insufferably ponderous "Gap", or constructing the kind of methodical but imaginative guitar interplay that recalls Television's Lloyd and Verlaine for "Do You Wanna", sculpting his parts from an armoury of juddering tremors and abstract throbs.
An Eighties pop-metal sheen illuminates "Stormy Weather", while the irritatingly chipper "Sway", with its jaunty percussion and ringing acoustic guitars, acquires an unexpected air of misgiving through the judicious addition of melancholy mellotron. A little variety is achieved via "One Last Time", a rough-hewn reggae shuffle with harmonies of pleasing rusticity.
If the album had ended there, it may have merited that elusive fifth star. But sadly, The Kooks take it upon themselves to advertise their thin skin with the limply climactic "Trick of Time", taking ineffectual pot-shots at some nameless detractor, an oddly graceless and paranoid – and ungrateful – plaint from a young band who sold more than two million copies of their debut album. Still, that's but a fleabite of annoyance compared to the standards struck here.
Pick of the album: 'See the Sun', 'Do You Wanna', 'Love It All', 'Stormy Weather'
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