Just over halfway through the quartered release of upcoming album “10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark,” there seems to have been little improvement since The Kooks’ 2018 album “Let’s Go Sunshine,” a tragic release save for two half-hits: “Picture Frame” and “No Pressure.”
In their earlier days, English rock group The Kooks were fresh. Their unpredictable melodies pulled from post-punk and the best of indie rock. Since the release of their fourth album in 2014, “Listen,” though, they seem to be steady in their decline.
The losses of members Max Rafferty and Paul Garred could be to blame for at least a portion of the slump, but with longtime members Luke Pritchard leading vocals and Hugh Harris leading guitar, these recent and absolute failures should have been impossible.
Following an eight-year stretch of stodgy releases, The Kooks have four songs left on the album by which they can resurrect their name. Unfortunately, of the current rough releases, only one song stands out: a 3 1/2-minute nostalgic track titled “25.”
The track sees frontman Pritchard reminiscing on a romance he took part in back in 2010. Though the sparkly backing track nearly kills the number, the wandering lyrics manage to captivate from the start with Pritchard calling out “a fetish rosy cheeked is left alone / there is no justice.”
Other tracks on the album, “Beautiful World,” “Modern Days” and “Jesse James,” are near pop overkill and are only narrowly saved by the Kooks’ classically chromatic chord work revealed between minutes one and two. Even still, the mediocre compilation thus far pales drastically in comparison to the colorful tracklists of previous albums like “Konk” and “Junk of The Heart.”
The Kooks’ music was once evocative of a melancholy specific to a hazy, youthful summertime, dazzlingly impassioned and laughably credulous. As of late, though, The Kooks’ lyrics are kitschy and the unique sound which once demarcated them has been nearly completely lost in the profusion of stale synth.
The obnoxiously starry, cyclical tunes marring the album as of yet on songs “Connection” and “Jesse James” aren’t unlike The Weeknd's tinny, overpowering backing tracks, and “Beautiful World” manages to painfully blend the likes of Vampire Weekend and modern Coldplay in one swift go. The Kooks don’t seem to be aging well, pulling from the worst of their musical peers, but at least they aren’t alone in their crumbling with the predominance of modern musicians at their side.
Before knocking the once brilliant band, though, let them have their four final tracks to re-establish that clear musical brilliance and virtuosity. Who knows — these final tracks may finally break free from the melodic shadows of prior releases that have dampened their every musical move for years.
Until July 22, when the album will be released in its entirety, the pitiful recent releases will beg the tragic question of if The Kooks still have it in them to shine.
Natalie Jude is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @nataloroni or at email@example.com