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Single Review: The Kooks – Down

2 min read

Eons ago (well… all the way back in 2006) East Sussex quartet The Kooks classifed their sound as “Indie-pop/reggae”. This was on a website that current Late Night host Seth Meyers at his old SNL job once called “the internet’s abandoned amusement park”: Myspace. Back then, this label kind of fit – their debut Inside In/Inside Out had a perfectly executed dual focus on both tight, to-the-point pop songs and a loose, human feel.

The Kooks DownOver the course of the two albums that followed (2008’s Konk and Junk Of The Heart from 2011), Luke Pritchard and co. seemingly worked their way closer and closer to the middle of the road and honestly, it was kind of a bummer to watch. They’ve been pretty quiet since touring Australia a year ago for the Groovin’ The Moo festival and it appears they’ve done some soul-searching in the interim because they’re back with new single Down and it sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen The Kooks leaning more on the craft of songwriting and (dare we say) less on delivery but Down swings the pendulum to the polar opposite end of the spectrum. It’s sparse, groove-based and layered with percussion and hooky call-and-response vocals and while it’s refreshingly carefree (maybe a little TOO carefree), it comes across as kind of rushed and inauthentic. Perhaps they were touring in New Orleans and were so inspired by the city’s infectious musical heritage that their response was to try paying homage. Unfortunately the result sounds like little more than an undercooked GarageBand demo.

If you’re a fan of either breakbeat hip-hop or classic funk, you’ll sniff out the loop from Cissy Strut by The Meters a mile away – it’s one of about five drumbeats upon which an entire sub-culture was born and while The Kooks have built something cool around it, hopefully the forthcoming eponymous EP will give Down a little more context because as a single, it’s just downright uncomfortable and confusing.