The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out (2006)

I always miss the zeitgeist. The Kooks had played my Freshers’ Week, but I didn’t go. I’d heard them on the radio, but only their biggest single (Naïve) – radio never has appealed to me, simply as I can’t hear the bass, and I can’t choose the songs. Regardless of my bitching, and generally late arrival on any “scene”, I bought Inside In/Inside Out during the balmy summer months (heatwave) that London enjoyed. It’s now my heartache album. How did this happen? Let me tell you a story…

This year has seen two break-ups and a non-starter, relationships-wise, and Luke Pritchard (vocals/guitar) has managed to distil my emotions into perfectly formed vignettes. And, he’s also written some funny songs about large breasted women, too. The woman that led me up the garden path, well, she’s all there in “She Moves In Her Own Way”. Then there’s the girl who just turned around and walked out – “You Don’t Love Me” says it all, perfectly, with a slightly metallic reggae edge. That crops up a lot, reggae. These boys have obviously been listening to The Clash, as well as the usual Bowie references I’ve found in our press.

“Naïve”, though, now, that got me through a severe case of post-traumatic date syndrome – apparently, the bassist doesn’t know what he’s playing on the recording, which makes live dates interesting – still, never judge rumour, I say, never judge rumour.

It’s not all about heartache, though – “Seaside” is a jaunty little number, all acoustic guitar and winsome introductory statements; “Ooh La” longs for love, and “Eddie’s Gun” is all about erectile disfunction. I didn’t get it first, either, but one of my elder colleagues at work (my summer job involves lots of sitting around and talking about music) enlightened me.

The longest song, “Time Awaits” is also the weakest – they can’t sustain their momentum past 3 minutes 30, and I wouldn’t want them too, in fairness. They’re a band who write songs as if they’re writing singles (and at the last count, they’ve released six of the album’s 14 songs); an admirable trait, as every song has a huge chorus, a riff or tune to die for and a catchy strain that – even when they sound bored, tired and are lacking amplification, as on their acoustic set – digs a little hole in your heart and nestles down for the long haul. For an album apparently all about one woman, they cover a remarkable range of situations: “See The World” and “Sofa Song” are full of optimism, “Matchbox” is belligerent lads-night-out fun (a bit like the Ordinary Boys, but far, far better) and “Got No Love” is a dubby, trippy, float through Pritchard’s bruised emotions.

A bunch of teenagers singing about heartbreak? Check. Esoteric English voice? Check. Music tabloid hype? Check. Still, at least there’s substance to the style.

6/10 (I’m a stingy bastard, and it’s not exactly a revolutionary disc)

Listen on Spotify

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