The Kooks

The Kooks

The Kooks

Inside In/Inside Out

Astralwerks/EMI

Big-selling, award-winning festival-players in Europe, The Kooks are the latest “Latest Sound” from the New Musical Express set. The pressures of their success there have been so great that their bassist suffered a “near-breakdown” and had to leave a tour. They’ve got girlfriends in the news, the lot. They’re riding a bubble and they’ve got “that ‘difficult’ second album” (and of course, drug addiction) ahead of them.

But much like Robbie Williams (who otherwise they’re not much like), they have yet to quite crack that “all-important” U.S. market, though they have sold out a few clubs. Are we missing much? Maybe. Maybe not.

Musically, The Kooks are something of a bait-and-switch, or at best schizophrenic. Their first album opens with a perfectly nice song, “Seaside” and closes with the simple but charged tracks “Got No Love” and (Special US Only Bonus Track!) “Do you Love Me Still.”

In-between, most of the rest alternates between unremarkable spot-the-influence rock/pop filler and… remarkable spot-the-influence rock/pop.

The fingerprints of four young men who have dug out their dad’s copy of Help!, and played it while drinking too much coffee are all over “Eddie’s Gun,” the obligatory Beatles rewrite here.

Of course, it’s just as possible it’s an Oasis rewrite, this not being the first time we’ve seen unremarkable/remarkable rock/pop hyped into the stratosphere of the English charts.

See, Europe, and especially European pop bands, have never really gotten over the fact that they produced, in four mop-top kids from Liverpool, a band whose musical influence — and profitability of exploitation — cannot be overstated.

Maybe not absolutely every one, but 99% of every band formed since has had their eye on that trajectory no matter how unlikely the hope. And the bottom floor of the pop business is littered with acts that were once elevated to the status of “IT! Girl” of the moment.

It’s interesting to note that their London chart rivals Kasabian recently tried to slam The Kooks by claiming they “make music for girls.” Heck, if that was true I’d probably like ’em more.

“But the little girls understand” has long been a better sign of where to pin your hopes than the aforementioned leather-jacketed NME crowd. However to truly be a “music for girls” band there has to be at least a slight possibility that as a 14-year-old boy, you’d be embarrassed to admit liking them.

For better or for worse, “music for girls” is not how I would describe Inside In/Inside Out. “Music for lads who enjoy getting wrecked so they have the bravery to read the poetry they’ve kept secret, before diving into the mosh pit” is.

I present a song called “Jackie Big Tits” as my exhibit A, your honor.

“Matchbox” sounds like if Danny Elfman had scored a pornographic film before disbanding Oingo Boingo. Other songs like “I Want You” and “Time Awaits” are all very “American (Alternative) Idol.”

This is one of those moments where I have to be honest with you. Yours truly is almost 15 years too old to find much meaning in sophomoric lyrics like “You don’t love me the way that I love you/ If you did girl, you would not do the things you do” or the content-free “Ooh La.”

Which personality of The Kooks you prefer is probably going to depend a lot on your age — the younger you are, the deeper a chord it’s likely to strike. Their fans love it, and you might too.

But then, even when I was of such an age, we had Nirvana (another band that, like The Beatles, did more harm than they’ll ever know) to listen to, you know — he said, feeling smugly superior.

Actually I’m being unfair, that’s not meant so much as a slam as it may appear. Just as each generation thinks it’s the first to discover sex, each thinks its bands invented rock.

Only the truly sensible among us, of course, know that David Bowie did.

Look, they clearly work very hard (inasmuch as playing music is work) and they’ve found an audience that likes what they do. No one could begrudge them that. But it’s going to depend a little on what kind of person you are, too.

Astralwerks Records: www.astralwerks.com

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