The Kooks rose to prominence in the mid-aughts with their British invasion-channeling swagger-- like bits of Beatles and other Brit-pop performers of the flower-era, slipping hand-holding and smiles into their joyful choruses. Fiercely catchy (and operating like a less severe Arctic Monkeys) they've lost none of their potency, despite a deeper connection into the era they are so often associated with. Their third studio LP Junk of the Heart is a bit more soulful, as lead singer Luke Pritchard explains in their session interview, a bit more in tune with the way pop and soul were basically married back in the early 70s. In a sunny West Side studio space, the band played three of their most contagious constructions to date-- the naturally appealing love-letter "Rosie," their latest title track "Junk of the Heart," and one of our favorites off their debut studio album "Ooh La," an alleged dedication to the late model Audrey Lindvall. Watch them jangle their way through all three, but beware... these are melodies that will glue themselves to your brain for weeks at a time, even after one listen.
Girl, I want to be good to you I never want to do you no harm I'm caught up in those fascination Coping with your alarms Ignore life if you want to, babe Do what you've got to do I need some time in the countryside I want to feel so brand new You make me run away You make me run away You make me run away, angel You make me run away - We're glad to be back in New York. Always good. There's--there's certain' feelin'... a lot of people talk about New York that way. Um, it's almost like... when you are in a bus and you sleep a bus... and you get to a certain point it has to New York something start, feeling start coming. Um, it just a really cool place. It must be in some late lines or somethin', I don't know. Junk of the heart is junk in my mind So hard to leave you all alone, We get so drunk that we can hardly see What use is that to you or me baby? Still I notice nothing makes you shatter, no, no. You're a lover of the wild and a joker of the heart, But are you mine? I wanna make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive, Let me make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive at night, I wanna make you happy You and good girl tonight, Yeah We sink to be sunk, life is no race, When I'm not happy I'm in disgrace So I spend time with guessing on you oh. You're a lover of the wild and a joker of the heart, But are you mine? I wanna make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive, Let me make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive at night, I wanna make you happy You and good girl tonight, Yeah Still I notice nothing makes you shatter, no, no. You're a lover of the wild and a joker of the heart, But are you mine? I wanna make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive, Let me make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive at night, I wanna make you happy You and good girl tonight, Yeah - Yeah we played Junk of the heart um... that when I was start and some... um just quite ... just um, it--I kind of... when I was writing I want to write like a soul song. Like it kind the sound, Kook sing, obviously it doesn't sound like that now. On the recording the--like the lyric and the melody and the chords is like harking back to old soul songs. Um, it kind the begging... begging song. I call it begging song, you know. Our new album is called Junk of the Heart, it doesn't feel like a... a new album anymore. It feel... it feels like it fits quite well with the other two. So it's great and they--the songs really work well live actually. See the same old crowd again Wash my hands and shake my feet And yes I missed you all Since I last saw you I fell down the rabbit hole As I wonder what we'd be like Wrapped up, so up tight with you Lust will do funny things I don't want you to go out looking so good And you look so good Rosie, Well I feel your love and I want you to agree To be Still take your time but get to me, Rosie She looked away as I mentioned my name The street lights light up my shame The world will take you and swallow you whole But you're a big girl and I think you already know You've been bought and sold Be careful with me, I see all that you see Troy died in a day for little Rosie Rosie, well I feel your love and I want you to see me now Still take your time roll your stone to me, Rosie Gonna find you now I'll walk that beat And you'll do me a pirouette in the street And although we'll fall we'll find our feet, yeah Well I wanted you so easily Illusions past and now I see Image is so different to reality Rosie Oh, Rosie, oh - Rosie is like a... kind like a mo-town tune... the way we do that, I mean, When you... when you go back to acoustics it's like a country song, it's kinda a way it tune. I mean you can take it how you want it mean it's kind of about um, uh, when you meet someone in a kind of illusion of what you think they are and then, what it turns to sort of thing. People can spin you quite quickly when you first meet, and you sort get underneath the kind of beauty of something or someone, and you see the dark side, that's kinda what the song is about. Basically, we... we start working different... in different way on this one. Picked up some more modern influences. The first two albums were really heavily influenced by 60's really, 60's big bands and soul music. So it was like... it--on this one we we were sort of reaching for, we were getting into some different kinds of music, and so we were trying to do something different. Like I said, I think we're still in that journey of like, going down a different direction and... I think we're like halfway there. I mean we're not shy of our influences. You know what I mean? I think on the record that's really clear. I mean you see like, Mr. Nice Guy we've kind of put in a, the 'let's dance' or Twist and Shout sort of harmonies, and I think that we definitely, take direct inspiration. It's just kind of how it's always been. Especially bands that we really love in the past. Weren't really afraid to do that, it's just go, phew, and take a bit of that and a bit of that. So I think on the new record you can really feel that. And there were definitely, I mean specific bands like Air, for example, Junk of the Heart, the single, just sends a tone, you know, for like, we want an Air sound that kind of Virgin Suicides thing. So we tried to get bring some of that in, and... Bring in some maybe LCD Sound System drum sounds. So yeah, I think you can... pick up on that. In their eyes is a place that you finally discovered That you love it here, you've got to stay On the bottom of the rock, an island On which you find you love it when you twitch You feel that itch in you pettycoat Your pretty pretty pettycoat Then you smiled, he got wild You didn't understand that there's money to be made Beauty is a card that must get played By organisations And ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out And ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out The world can be a very big place So be yourself don't feel out of place Love your man and love him twice Go to Hollywood and pay the price Oh Hollywood And don't be a star, it's such a drag Take care of yourself, don't begin to lag It's a hard life to live, so live it well I'll be your friend and not to pretend You know I love you girl In all situations But ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out And ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out Such a pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty Such a Pretty pretty pettycoat In all situations And ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out And ooh la, she was such a good girl to me And ooh la, the world just chewed her up and spat her out - If you want changes there's always gonna be way in. You always be ready when it does hit you--you sings happened yesterday. Me and Peter with, I was playing this thing and, like, that's cool melody and I try to remember, and I can't remember it. It happens all the time...
Sometimes you have to change everything, retool everything, rethink everything
in order to move in the right direction. The Kooks' Luke Pritchard knows this,
in fact he positively delights in it. His band's new album their third, always a
crucial moment has always had one great goal. To reinvent the band from the
ground up. Rather wonderfully, they've done it.
"The whole way we work has changed," Luke smiles. "We're not just a band
making noise in a room anymore. We've moved on a lot and I'm really proud of
what we've done. There are elements of all the music we have ever loved in this
new record, but it still has our roots. Junk Of The Heart is very different and
hopefully something that no one's ever heard before. It's upbeat its' an album
to play in the sun..."
So Junk Of The Heart marks a rebirth for The Kooks. Written and recorded in
London and Los Angeles over the last nine months, the songs came in a great
rush, with Luke playing guitar as the band's long-time producer, Tony Hoffer (a
man so integral to the band Luke calls him, "our George Martin") built beats and
basslines and atmospheres on his laptop. The songs they created were then
taken to the band (including new bassist Pete Denton who joined towards the
end of the recording of Konk) who fleshed out all the ideas and added a whole
new layer of invention. What they've ended up with is a string of bright and
emotional, deeply melodic pop gems that draw on a whole world of new
influences from electronic music and the Rolling Stones to luscious string
quartets and hip-hop.
"I've been listening to Lykki Li and LCD Soundsystem and I found them really
inspiring," Luke says. "They made me want to do something that's truly part of
this time. I will always love 60s and 70s music, that's my roots, but I think we
went too far into it."
So the album opens with a dramatic breakbeat, builds across acoustic guitar and
warm washes of synth before collapsing into the sort of chorus you'll be singing
for days on end. Actually there's a few of those. New songs like "Runaway" or
"Taking Pictures Of You" match Luke's innate melodic suss with dub and
electro, sub-aqua guitar and soaring great strings. "Is It Me "("I began to
breakdown searching over time, bring me a pig's heart and a glass of wine...")
rides a crisp, skittering drum patter that leads the way past some scratchy
Velvet Underground guitars to this massive great guitar-led chorus, while
"How'd You Like That" pitches a lush disco-funk piano-figure to a singalong, hand-clapping
climax. As if that weren't enough, "Killing Me" has a wonderfully slippery guitar
riff held together by a big, bold 80s keyboard figure. Junk Of The Heart is, in all
honesty, quite a remarkable turn-around for a band once famous for their
unstinting veneration of and devotion to older sounds and styles.
"What we really wanted for this record was for it to be a proper, full album," says
Luke, "something you can listen to from front to back. I see this as a journey that
everyone can come on with us. I love records with ups and downs, and this one
even has an interval."
That will be the extraordinary "Time Above The Earth", which would, in an
earlier age, have been Track One, Side Two of the vinyl LP. Featuring an exquisite
score by guitarist Hugh Harris, this is a bold example of where The Kooks are
heading, as is the simple, gorgeous acoustic lullaby, "Petulia" the album is all
about great ideas done with honesty and a sense of place and direction.
"That is certainly part of the conceptual element to this," Luke says. "I'm inspired
by Yeats and love poetry and this album looks at that search my search for
purity and honesty. It is a warm record, that was crucial to us. It had to be
comforting and tender, but with bite and vibe too."
Go back five years and their genre-defying debut Inside In/Inside Out proved
The Kooks were something special. This was a band who could do brash and
breadth, from balladry to wiry, scratchy pop. In 2008, after a prolonged spell of
intense touring, came the heavyweight Konk, where The Kinks and the
Bunnymen met Bowie, Bolan and The Beat. "We went to a really dark place on
that record," Luke says. "Too many gigs, too much travel, too much of everything.
We have clarity and stability now and that's so important. Without a healthy
mind you can't write good songs."
Drummer Paul Garred had to leave in late 2009 due to a nerve problem in his
arm. They ended the longest tour they'd ever done with a stand-in drummer and
no new material. In late 2010, after scrapping a whole load of songs they'd
worked on with Jim Abyss, Luke started to produce things himself on a small
scale, just making beats on a computer.
"I had shit loads of words and melodies," he says, "but I needed to think about
the sonics, and how we would progress."
So Tony came to London and the pair spent five days working on the songs that
would become Junk Of The Heart. Soon after, as the songs came too life, Paul
returned to write and play, something that still cheers Pritchard immensely.
"Having Paul back meant we tried and still try things we've never done
before," he says. "We ended up working quickly, keeping it fun." Three years
after Konk, Junk Of The Heart is like a whole new band. Over the last
nine months The Kooks have reimagined what it is they do, what they are for and
now they seem stronger and happier than ever. Their mission was to move on, to
never repeat themselves, and the new record shows they've certainly done that.
"There was pressure building up," Luke admits. "We felt lost. But now we feel
free. It seems easy again. Music should be experimental, not constricted. We're
not turning our back on what we have done, but we're different people now. So
everything is evolving, the live show will be evolving it will have too, even the
old songs will be changed a bit. I don't know what will happen next, but I know
I'm looking ahead. This record has opened the floodgates for us."