The Magic Whip
Say what you like about Luke Pritchard, he knows how to talk a good fight.
The Kooks' garrulous singer claims that the band's new, fourth album comprises "electric church music" and is so influenced by New Orleans funk and Ethiopian jazz that it is essentially world music. Its producer, an unknown London hip-hop tyro named Inflo, he describes as "a young Quincy Jones".
It's all highly entertaining pre-match hype but sadly bears little relation to the actual contents of Listen, which is effectively The Kooks' usual spindly, hi-octane landfill indie fed through a pop-funk wringer. Pritchard is trying hard, but The Kooks are simply too resolutely lightweight to earn the gravitas that he craves.
Tracks such as Around Town and Bad Habit are admittedly sharp rhythmically, yet it is a funkiness that evokes not Sly Stone or George Clinton but mid-period INXS. Forgive And Forget purports to chart a torturous relationship breakdown but nevertheless sounds irrepressibly jaunty because, well, jaunty is what The Kooks do.
Coming out swinging, Pritchard regards Listen's 11 tracks as "percussion sonnets" but his lyrical abilities simply aren't up to such high-falutin' claims. See Me Now is a ballad to his late father, but quickly dissolves into maudlin sentimentality ("Have a drink on me upstairs"); This Is London, inspired by the 2011 urban riots, finds him adopting a cod-reggae accent to bemoan the unrest "from Covent Garden all de way to Brixton".
As an album, it's no disgrace, and tracks such as Westside and Down are perfectly palatable, chart-friendly pop-rock fodder. However, this is really not the record that Luke Pritchard thinks it is.