Review Roundup September

29 Sep

Junk of the Heart by The Kooks

How can a band who possess the talent to write the likes of ‘Naive’, ‘Always Where I Need to Be’ and ‘She Moves in her Own Way’ return after four whole years away with an album as thoroughly lacking in tunes as ‘Junk of the Heart’? Theres not one song on here worth writing home about. Nothing. This is especially disappointing as the track they released to the radio at the start of the summer, ‘The Saboteur’ was an excellent Beatles-esque number that is inexplicably missing from the album. In its place are by numbers landfill indie rockers like ‘ Is It Me’ and ‘Rosie’, songs that are as mundane and tiresome as anything I’ve heard all year. The melodies are predictable whilst the instrumentation is bland, and nowhere near as experimental as they told us it would be in interviews.

Their last album was the hit and miss (and badly titled) ‘Konk’ which featured the truly dire ‘Do You Wanna’, and this time around they have somehow managed to top that song in the creepy/cringey stakes with the appalling and mildly stalker-ish ‘Do You Remember’, which features lines as bad as ‘Do you remember me taking pictures of you, you were running away’. Elsewhere ‘Fuck the World Off’ is as rubbish as its title would suggest and ‘Time Above the Earth’ cuts out just as it’s getting good. If ‘Junk of the Heart’ has any redeemable moments then they would probably be the more tuneful numbers like ‘How’d You Like That’ and ‘Petulia’, songs that suggest their knack for a catchy melody hasn’t completely abandoned them. It would be wrong to label The Kooks as one hit wonders, mainly because they have more than a handful of genuinely great singles in their back catalogue, but those successes are in the past and ‘Junk of the Heart’ doesn’t suggest they have much of a future.

3.5/10

A Creature I Don’t Know by Laura Marling

Laura Marling is only 21 and yet ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ is her third album – she’s developing at a phenomenal rate. Her voice is now in another league to what it once was, and her songwriting’s becoming increasingly ambitious, mature and complex. Which is of course as worrying as it is pleasing, after all who wants a 21 year old singer to be mature? Her last album ‘I Speak Because I Can’ was a brilliant improvement on the so-so debut ‘Alas, I cannot Swim’, and it was unusually successful for a folk record, winning Marling a Brit award for best Female. Coming only 12 months on, ‘I Speak Because I can’ is a mixed success; it makes me question whether Marling has peaked too soon.

Whilst being an improvement in certain respects (her voice, the arrangements, the diversity, the confidence) ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ doesn’t really come close to its predecessor in the songs stake; it’s a bit too serious and high minded. The stuff she sings about is usually discussed by people three times her age, or poets from centuries gone – it all seems a bit false and contrived to me. The mood is more varied and the tunes are more jazzy than last time around, and on certain tracks including ‘Sophia’ and ‘I Was Just a Card’ this works wonderfully, but elsewhere she comes over as pretentious, old before her time, and frankly a bit boring (see ‘The Beast’ and ‘Night After Night’). If the other songs were as good as the album’s best moment’ then this wouldn’t matter as much as it does. The question I’m left asking is where does she go from here?  ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ is an interesting development, but perhaps not the right development for such a young singer-songwriter.

6/10

Never Trust a Happy Song by Grouplove

It’s a real shame that Grouplove’s debut album, ‘Never Trust a Happy Song’, wasn’t released three months ago because this is a summer album if ever I heard one. I can only imagine how good the likes of ‘Lovely Cup’ and ‘Naked Kids’ (note: googling that one might get you into trouble!) would sound on a hot summer’s day. First single ‘Colours’ was released in time for water fights and barbecues, and it was something of a minor hit; other tracks on here could easily follow suit if given half a chance – simply, they’re great fun. The songs were written on a musical trip to Greece, where the singer met the other members and his current girlfriend (also backing singer in the band), and many of the songs are about this life affirming experience.

The best moments come in the first half; ‘Tongue Tied’ is an infectious slice of post-MGMT synth pop that is a gazillion times better than recent ‘Kids’ rip-offs by The Naked and Famous or Gypsy and the Cat. ‘Spun’ is a rip-roaring pub song that has the best feelgood verses (not to mention chorus) I’ve heard in ages. The second half of ‘Never Trust a Happy Song’ is a bit more hit and miss, especially when they slow it down, but it still contains some gems. ‘Chloe’ and ‘Betty’s a Bombshell’ are 1960’s style pop song with some gorgeous, round the camp fire style harmonies, and ‘Close Your Eyes’ is a pretty ending to round things off.

Grouplove lack originality but they don’t lack inspiration; this is a joyous listening experience that sounds like it was a blast to create. ‘Raise your glasses here’s to living out our dreams.’ Indeed.

8/10

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