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album review: the kooks, junk of the heart

What can we expect in this, the third album from a band who gave us an stunningly fresh debut album and an impressive follow-up that only managed to get better the more we listened? Not much, unfortunately.

All cards unashamedly on the table here: I am a big fan of The Kooks and was absolutely thrilled to discover that they had a new album coming out. I was confident that, based on the calibre of Inside In, Inside Out and Konk – as well as their back catalogue of uniformly fabulous B-sides – my opinion of their latest would be a foregone conclusion. How very, sadly wrong I was.

One’s impression of this album’s content could, quite justifiably, be based on its title. That little irony did strike me initially. However, I have since come to the conclusion that the problem with Junk of the Heart is actually that it doesn’t have a heart. Or at least, not much of a one. Don’t come to it expecting another ‘Naïve’ or ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’. Instead we have a collection of frothy pop songs (okay, even more so than usual), that feel as though they were only cobbled together because the band realised they hadn’t released an LP in three years.

An unfortunate feature of this album is its consistent lack of consistency. There seems to be a pattern of decent chorus (‘Is It Me’, ‘Rosie’) or quality verses (‘F**k the World Off’, ‘Mr. Nice Guy’). And while The Kooks were never up for any song-writing awards, instead relying on singer Luke Pritchard’s distinctive voice to carry the lyrics through, they seem to have sunk to a new level of mediocrity – one peppered with lazy rhymes. The lovely, “She’s like the first girl on this earth that you wanted to touch” off ‘Eskimo Kiss’ is weakened by the preceding line, where the old “diamond in the rough” simile rears its overused head.

But before it be said that this review damns Junk of the Heart completely, a couple of points must be made in its favour (and here I feel it necessary to remind the reader that, as I mentioned above, this band is quite precious to me. As such, I will freely admit that anything that follows may well, despite my attempts at journalistic objectivity, be unduly influenced in the band’s favour). The album does improve with repeated listenings. The title track, ‘Junk of the Heart (Happy)’, while perhaps a lame opener, does have that sweet catchiness that The Kooks have so perfected. The other two highlights, ‘Rosie’ and ‘Eskimo Kiss’, likewise confirm that the band is master in the art of poptastic choruses.

They say that one person’s junk is another one’s treasure (or something like that). In this case, I wouldn’t go that far. However there’s hope in the idea of Junk of the Heart as a kind of Spring-cleaning. Maybe now The Kooks have finally gotten rid of the remnants of Inside In, Inside Out that evidently still lingered.

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