Anyone I've mentioned The Kooks to in the past week has been thoroughly surprised they're still making music. But as a slate of recent headline festival slots confirms, their popularity has outstripped changes in the music industry; in fact, those changes may have been their saving grace, as major hits, such as Naive, find new life – and millions of streams – on Spotify playlists.
Perhaps it's unsurprising then that their new album Let's Go Sunshine is essentially indistinguishable from anything they've released before, but for the slight increase in production value. But it's ironic, considering they told the Evening Standard they started with the aim of emulating the sound of their last record, Listen (2014), but decided to scrap that in favour of something new. What is new here, however, is unclear.
For outsiders, the record may be uninspiring, but for fans showing up for more of what they love, it's Christmas Day. The 15 tracks on Let's Go Sunshine are bright and upbeat, with frontman Luke Pritchard's vocals sounding as good as ever, often layered with lovely harmonies – most beautifully on the warm and catchy Initials for Gainsbourg. There are hooks abound, such as on the fast folk of Honey Bee or the anthemic rock of Believe.
But with most songs following almost identical structures, the album begins to wash together as an almost hour-long loop of mid-tempo guitar-rock. Once the record hits the halfway mark, one can't shake the sense that The Kooks were short on ideas, or were struggling to write their way out of what they did best in 2006. These tracks would sound great at a festival, and certainly make for pleasant background listening – but it's not enough to mark The Kooks as an essential band of 2018.
The Kooks, Let's Go Sunshine
Let's Go Sunshine
More of the same lessens the thrill