By Scott Birnie
Released Friday September 5th, 2014 - Virgin Records
After catapulting themselves into the brit pop scene with the iconic‘Inside In/Inside Out' in 2006, The Kooks have struggled to re-capture the essence of their self-imposed labelling. That album exposed The Kooks as a perfectly adept simple song writing act. 4 chords strung together in an upbeat and airy flight of easy listening. From ‘Naïve' to‘She Moves In Her Own Way', The Kooks firmly planted themselves at the top of the next wave of British acts along with Arctic Monkeys andThe Vaccines.
The Kooks have tried turning around their fortunes and with ‘Listen' employed the services of London Hip Hop producer Inflo to help out. Unfortunately whatever target they were aiming for was missed, by miles.
‘Listen' starts off with a strange dance/R&B/Gospel ‘Around Town'. Layered vocals with a backing choir float us through the introduction that only leads to more confusion from there on. ‘Westside' sounds an almost exact replica of in my opinion The Kooks best release to date ‘Seaside' and offers nothing in the way anything new. 'It Was London' is a sign of what The Kooks are capable of, although lyrically very cliché, the sound is more stripped back and bears the bones of what made The Kooks so good all those years ago. ‘Bad Habit' has its moments but once again what is good is washed out, too much happening with no apparent impact on the track.
The simplicity that The Kooks amplified in 2004 has been drowned out in over production. Layered vocals that sounded better in their own awkward way have flooded the entire album in a somewhat bizarre fashion. Maybe Inflo is to blame; maybe The Kooks are just trying to regain some mainstream success, either way it hasn't provided anything of substance. Nothing new to see here, and expect this album to slide down the charts with increasing velocity. And from a long-time fan of The Kooks, if you still regard ‘Inside In/Inside out' one of the best albums to come out of the 2000's, then don't listen to ‘Down'. It encapsulates everything that id forecast to happen to The Kooks career with this dismal release.