Album Reviews

The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out

(Virgin) UK release date: 23 January 2006

The last year and a half has witnessed a huge resurgence in British guitar bands, who are writing memorable pop songs that are accessible to all. The lines between indie and the mainstream are continually blurring as a result, with groups like the Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs threatening the charts in a manner that would have been unimaginable just five or so years ago.

And it’s in this vein that Brighton’s Kooks belong – already making sizeable impressions in the top 40 with their three singles to date, the quartet are impossibly young (their average age is a whopping 20), hugely enthusiastic and crucially, have a knack of putting together mind bogglingly catchy two and a half to three minute compositions that recall a bygone era where this is all that mattered.

Think of seminal pop bands like The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Kinks at their most melodic and simple, throw in some lashings of Police style reggae and you’re at least half way to understanding Inside In/Inside Out, their debut record.

But of course what’s on offer isn’t complex or challenging in any way shape or form, these are 14 little ditties written in their short time together as a band that exude a great sense of youth, energy and charisma, all in wonderfully concise and easy to digest pieces of music.

Needless to say it isn’t perfect – there’s a track that sounds like it was knocked out during a drunken jam (Jackie Big Tits), and a couple that are pretty inconsequential (Seaside, Got No Love). Lyrically, they’re about as single issue as Veritas, with the topic of girls and relationships receiving blanket coverage. But it would be churlish to criticise – they’re barely out of their teens, this is a hastily put together debut, and they can only get better. And the remaining 11 songs are really quite good indeed.

See The World is an early highlight, a 100-mile an hour rush of trenchant, distorted guitars and impassioned singing from frontman Luke Pritchard, a trait that characterises many of the songs on this collection.

Sofa Song is a great pop single that loses none of its vitality on the album, as is Eddie’s Gun, the one famous for its subject matter of, er…erectile dysfunction. Here it survives a re-working from its original, highly polished single version into something altogether rawer and grittier. Its refrain of “In the barrel of my gun, I hope I’m not the only one” remains as contagious as the first time we heard it last July.

Ooh La is a sun fried, upbeat acoustic number, with, you guessed it – a wonderful chorus, or series of choruses as it happens, whilst Matchbox is quite possibly the most joyous and bouncy track you’ll hear all year. The highlights don’t stop there – I Want You Back shows off a more melancholic and emotive side to the band, and If Only jerks around like an aggressive drunk in a straightjacket.

Then there’s Time Awaits, where Pritchard does an impression of a street busking soul singer in the deep south of America (or anything on BRMC‘s latest album), before he and his cohorts kick in to something of an extended, almost psychedelic rock-out. It really shouldn’t be good, but it most certainly is.

And that’s pretty much the story of the record. Four young, terribly well spoken chaps pull off – surprisingly, but with some panache it must be said – an eclectic album showcasing influences that their parents probably aren’t old enough to remember. A blindingly bright future beckons.

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More on The Kooks
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The Kooks – Junk Of The Heart
The Kooks @ Brixton Academy, London
The Kooks – Konk
The Kooks + Larrikin Love @ Octagon, Sheffield