The Kooks are from Brighton, they are named after a David Bowie song and they write great British pop songs.
After a few false starts I realised that sitting down and trying to write about ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ at length is an ultimately futile exercise - why do you need to work your way through my verbose citations of influences when all that inspires here has done so for a million other bands before? However, the fact that I feel like I’m stuck inside doing homework while all the other kids are out enjoying the summer sun is enough to tell me that this is a record well worth hearing. The Kooks don’t talk trash on the 9-5 grind. They don’t have a new wave fixation. They don’t talk about the gritty realities of urban life; or spin metaphors from weeping syringes and slamming prison doors.
What they do is take girls, the seaside and... well, that’s all you need really isn’t it? Targets drawn, they get on with the business at hand; namely crafting some of the best soaring Britpop melodies this side of the 60’s (and Lee Mavers). Of the 14 tracks here, only about three or four wouldn’t be dead certs to make raids on the dizzier echelons of the hit parade. They are a less irreverent and more melodic Art Brut, swapping that band’s caustic wit for a far nicer type of honesty.
‘See The World’ bunks a train bound for Brighton after hearing opener ‘Seaside’, speeding through English countryside towards fresh air, glassy sun and pebbles that burn underfoot.‘Jackie Big Tits’ is the uncut retelling of those slanderous allegations scrawled indelibly all over public transport since Jimmy first caught the train back in ’65, and impressive singles ‘Eddie’s Gun’ and ‘Sofa Song’ talk about the girls that made him buy the ticket. And, though tracks like ‘I Want You Back’ chase familiar shadows, they show that despite their flirtation with a number of genres, (sun-drenched pop, dead-ahead rock 'n' roll, 90’s Britpop, brain-juddering ska ...a few songs even giving off distinct traces of, whisper it – ‘emo’), The Kooks have already managed to boil it all down and cook up their own sound. Melodies build, vocals bounce and pace wanders until it all comes together at the end in a neat summarisation of all that gone before in the past few minutes.
The first half of the album is all right and proper, but musically the best track here is ‘Time Awaits’. First impressions are important, and when it comes ambling in through the back entrance of a deserted blues bar, it doesn’t sound like a fitting climax to a debut album shot through with confidence and teenage swagger. Then, crooner Luke Pritchard makes a request: “don’t leave this town...” Do they turn it around? Of course they do. The song is promptly grabbed by the scruff of the neck, shaken up and generally given a good kicking as the band decides they’d rather lord it about like a youthful Police on chang than wank about with tired blues standards. Brassy bold and tough as old boots, it strides off in an offbeat, ownbeat direction, before ‘Got No Love’ comes along and goes all sleepy-eyed Beach Boys on us – bringing to mind ‘Never Learn Not To Love’ in particular.
So, to review - The Kooks are from Brighton, they are named after a David Bowie song and they write great British pop songs. Sound good? I reckon so.