10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark
It’s the first time since Wednesday I’ve pulled back my blackout curtains and properly gotten out of bed, I’ve been laid up with COVID (world’s tiniest violin plays in the background). When the sun hits me, with its unrelenting light, I’m reminded of the scene in Terminator 2 when everyone at the children’s playground is incinerated and reduced to ashes once the bomb explodes, levelling LA. Unfortunately for me, the machines haven’t achieved sentience and thrown off humanities shackles, yet. Still, I’m sure they’d probably have written a better album than the Kooks, and a better review for 10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark than I’m about to. Both will make you want to pull the curtains shut again or, at the very least after listening to it, make you wish you had COVID instead.
What even is a Kook? Some might say it’s my downstairs neighbour, who’s covered his balcony door in tin foil, the faint rustling of which still filters its way up through into my flat whenever there’s a gentle breeze a week past the heatwave. Others, myself included, might say they were part of the English indie invasion (I’m not from here) that came in around the early ‘00s as CDs were on their way out. Brighton, around that time, birthed some of the UK’s most successful indie rock. Most notably Blood Red Shoes, Fujiya & Miyagi and, perhaps best known for their viral videos, The Go! Team. The former are still around and, like any organism on Earth, have evolved as they’ve continued to grow, but have The Kooks?
Luke Pritchard’s (I wonder if he’s any relation to Eddie Pritchard the valedictorian from my grade school that went on to sell class A drugs in high school and most recently went full MAGA/QAnon?) vocals are The Kooks defining sound. When they surfaced onto the scene, no one had any idea what a Scouse was where I was from but the inflection in Luke’s vocals is inarguably their USP abroad. The crooked Liverpudlian crux in Luke’s voice, albeit recognisable to mainlanders here as ‘northern’, is certainly uncommon abroad and I’d argue drew most to the newly minted fresh-faced lads. Or maybe it could have been the ground-breaking lyrics like, “do you wanna, do you wanna, do you wanna make love to me”, probably no one will ever know. We’d argue it was the silliness of it all, infecting plastic young minds with their sound, band name and sophomoric lyrics.
10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark, you’ll be happy to know, carries on lyrically along the same vein. Pedestrian, but Luke’s voice has smoothened with more range. ‘Connection’, the first track, is unrecognizable from the iconic stripped back sounds on Konk and could easily pass off as produced by The Weekend. It’s enjoyable but forgettable, and one day you might even be embarrassed to have said you listened to and enjoyed it, like The Weekend. The band cites Philip K Dick and Asimov for the albums sci-fi and optimistic inspiration, which they hope comes across and which I, personally, find insulting as a fan of the aforementioned. Lay off the Can-D and Cew-Z will ya?
Recorded in Berlin (Lou must be spinning in his grave) for the sole reason the band wanted a “European Sound” because they’re a “European Band”, there’s seemingly no influence on the album from one of Europe’s most evolved cities. Instead, what we get is a pick’n’mix of different sounds slapped together that pass off more as American pop (metronome, morse-code samples, boring keys, children’s choir backing vocals and clapping) than a Berlin sound.
I filtered haphazardly, truth be told, through the 10 tracks; not particularly being gripped by any and finding no redeemable music of which to speak on the album. The Kook’s new joint suffers from a lack of identity and has zero sense of direction, it’s an album that comes across as produced to fulfil contractual obligations. This might actually be its most sellable feature though. To most late 30s/early 40s somethings, the band’s name will ring a bell. Perhaps those on their way to a full-blown mid-life crisis, it’ll probably pull at them like a siren’s call.
To those that liken the early ‘00s indie sound to that of what the Grunge scene was to the ‘90s, it’ll keep them at arm’s length. 10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark is an album we wished had stayed hidden in the dark. It sounds dangerously similar to the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Spitting Off the Edge of the World’ track, a half-baked attempt at new music. God help us if all the ‘00s jamsters come back from the grave sounding like this.