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The Kooks – 10 Track to Echo in the Dark (Lonely Cat)

The Kooks burst onto the scene in 2006 with floppy hair and pointy shoes, and a genuinely brilliant debut album, Inside In/Inside Out, which combined melodic pop under the heavy influence of blues, played on acoustic guitars with the energy of punk thrown in for good measure. It was a fun and unique cocktail and soundtracked a very happy summer for me. 

That was over 15 years ago, and the band are back with their sixth album, 10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark. The album was recorded in Berlin and apparently takes inspiration from classic sci-fi (Philip K. Dick, Azimov) as well as surrealist works from the likes of French novelist and poet Boris Vian. Lead vocalist Luke Pritchard said he’d been ‘really affected by Brexit and I wanted to make a bit of a statement by creating a European record’, with lyrical themes of ‘hope, change and optimism for the future‘. 

Apart from the spacey cover art I didn’t really notice the sci-fi references, but there’s certainly a modern, cosmopolitan, disco vibe to the LP, no better exemplified by the super-catchy openerConnection‘, with prominent synth, Tame Impala bass and delicately-spun guitar. It’s the best thing on the album. ‘Cold Heart’ and ‘Oasis’ sound like they’ve been inspired by Foals with their reggae-flecked guitar. Meanwhile, ‘Sailing on a Dream‘ has strong Station to Station era Bowie vibes, while ‘Jesse James‘ sounds tailor-made for a new generation of young fans to sing along to at music festivals. 

Huge portions of the album reminded me strongly either of The 1975 or the more recent stuff from Coldplay, and there’s certainly a touch of Chris Martin-like banality to some of the lyrics, whether it’s ‘We’re flying through the air, everything is going to be alright‘ (‘Jesse James‘) or ‘It’s such a beautiful world, I’m glad we’re living in it‘ (‘Beautiful World‘). A simple but pleasant acoustic ditty ‘Without a Doubt‘ closes the album, and feels like a nod to the style of ‘Inside In/Inside Out‘, bringing things full circle.

At just over 32 minutes, ‘10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark‘ is a lean collection of slick and groovy pop songs, and, although it’s not particularly challenging, I defy anyone to stick this on in their car during a long summer drive and not get some enjoyment out of it. It’s certainly going to be the soundtrack to somebody’s summer (probably an 18-year-old super-fan of The 1975).

The Kooks have certainly seemed to borrow ideas from some of their contemporaries, but you’ve got to give them credit for trying something different when they could’ve just rehashed a successful debut for the rest of their recording career.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.