The Kooks manage to mix just enough old and new in their latest track.
You might remember The Kooks as that early noughties band who gave us bangers such as ‘Seaside’, ‘Shine on’ and of course ‘Naive’. For a time at least, they defined British indie-rock and what became known as the Britpop style. You might not be aware, however, that the group have released three albums since those glory days: Junk of The Heart, Listen and Let’s Go Sunshine. There’s a reason why I call the time before these LP’s the glory days, and there’s a reason why these LP’s aren’t as well-known. Simply put, they lack the magic of Inside In/Inside Out and Konk and they tried to linger on a sound that was distinctive to the early noughties instead of successfully moving the band forward. Don’t get me wrong, as a huge Kooks fan there are still songs on these albums that I will happily listen to – but they’ll always be a little disappointing compared to the classics. Nevertheless, The Kooks are still going; this brings us to ‘So Good Looking’.
Everything about this single is quintessentially The Kooks. Opening with a stripped-back beat and strumming guitar, Luke Pritchard’s distinctive vocals echo melancholically on the first line: ‘remember when we used to be happy…’. Cheery, I know, but it is good stuff. As usual Pritchard takes his time, elongating his syllables and contemplating every note as the backtrack works to lift things up. It makes sense that this song is about looking back and being unsure about the future: he hesitates in the opening lyrics perhaps because he does not want things to move so quickly. With the next lyric, ‘then we grew up and things got busy’, things change. The sound builds and choral vocals play a call and response game, reaffirming (although it’s unclear who – the singer? the addressee of the song?) ‘you know that you can count on me’. The repetitive line ‘you’re running away from the words that you say’ towards the end of the track pins the change in speed; the song gains momentum just as it runs away from the singer as well as his subject.
This single does not disappoint. In fact, it is a pleasant surprise. Atmospherically, ‘So Good Looking’ has a retro feel that is still fresh enough to survive in today’s musical climate. The guitar-work is excellent, with strumming, slides, and a hell of a lot of rhythm being used. There are some truly lovely riffs particularly around the half-way mark; it’s these little moments that make this single one that I have already added to my ‘Summer 19’ playlist – and that spur me to suggest you do the same.
‘So Good Looking’ by The Kooks is out now via Virgin EMI