Junk of the Heart

The Kooks are unabashedly proud of being a pop band. There’s no pretense about changing or expanding their sound, no tags of “cutting edge indie artist” attached to their music. The band’s third album Junk of the Heart follows the template laid out on the first two albums: high energy vocals, shimmering pop melodies, sheaths of glimmering guitar, and lyrics about love and its pursuit. The quartet from Brighton, Sussex are here to, well, brighten your world a bit.

The Kooks have gone through several changes since their 2008 release Konk. Original members Luke Pritchard (guitar/lead vocals/piano) and Hugh Harris (guitar/piano/strings) remain but drummer Paul Garred left due to a nerve problem in his arm. Bassist Max Rafferty left and was replaced by Peter Denton. The departures don’t change the band’s sound as Pritchard is the voice and songwriter for the group. His songwriting influences are often suggested to be bands from the British rock invasion of the 1960s, particularly The Kinks, but you don’t have to listen hard to hear infusions of glitter rock as well as ‘80s influences. Pritchard, who has referred to the band as “musical whores,” is quick to point out Bowie and Queen as touchstones for The Kooks. Like both of those references, Pritchard writes songs with big orchestration, fabulous pop melodies, and offers the occasional acoustic ballad.

Junk of the Heart began with the band members secluding themselves in a cottage in Norfolk but ended up in L.A. for the recording. Chirping birds sneak onto “Petulia” an acoustic love ballad. “Taking Picture of You” completes the pair of acoustic songs offered on the album. “Time Above the Earth” offers a variation on the band’s sound with strings from The Section Quartet. But these songs are the exception with the rule being songs that grab your attention thanks to big time pop sensibility. “Junk of the Heart (Happy) sets the tone for the album with its syncopated rhythm, jangling guitar and synthesized programming. “How’d You Like That” puts a new emphasis on piano and brings to mind some of Bowie’s big ‘70s hits. “Eskimo Kiss” sounds like a lost Kinks song from the ‘60s. “Runaway” could have been stolen from an English Beat session with its jocular ska rhythms, sequenced programming and needle-point guitar. The boys throw down an attitude on “F**k the World Off” but the toughness doesn’t stick. Junk of the Heart" is an album that will continue to appeal to young girls as well as adults.

Rosemary Welsch (afternoon host)