Jake Tapley

The-Kooks-Listen for web

In the world of British indie rock, The Kooks are one of the biggest names out there.

Along with bands like Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs, they have continued to push their sound while holding their own in their respective music scene.

With the release of “Listen,” The Kooks’s fourth studio album, we hear the band moving away from their original style, in a lot of ways, and discovering it in others.

Much like the Arctic Monkeys’s “AM” or Kaiser Chiefs’s “Education, Education, Education & War,” “Listen” sees the band trading a raw, edgy sound for a poppy, produced one.

I think this certainly does The Kooks some favors, particularly on songs like the atmospheric and endlessly catchy, “Forgive & Forget” – easily my favorite track sonically – and hook-heavy single “Bad Habit.”

The song “Around Town,” which comes off sounding like Franz Ferdinand over a near hip-hop beat, even benefits from it.

However, due to this same type of stylized production, lead single “Down” suffers from being unmemorable, not particularly catchy and even a little bit annoying.

After listening to these songs, I began to wonder if there was going to be a return to the band that did the songs “Ooh La” or “Naive” – a band whose stripped-down Brit-pop made me think of a contemporary Beatles – or if we were going to be stuck with this new, and not entirely good or bad, version of The Kooks.

Then I listened further.

Songs like Phoenix-esque “Westside” and Radiohead-esque “Dreams” are certainly reminiscent of their older sound, though skewed in some distinct way.

End track “Sweet Emotion” also feels like it could belong on a former record, though it suffers structurally and lyrically.

This is ultimately where I feel the biggest disappointment comes on “Listen.” Many of the songs lack the substance and authenticity that initially blasted them onto the music scene.

The amount of vague repetition in the last two tracks is enough to make fans, and probably even some casual listeners, roll their eyes.

It’s nice that The Kooks have chosen to expand their sound. Unfortunately, I feel they have made a bit of a trade-off.