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True believers

The Kooks keep it classic
By KEN MICALLEF  |  May 8, 2007

VIDEO: The Kooks, "Ooh La"

Luke Pritchard may look a bit like a shaggy dog with his lips curled in a mock Jagger pout. But it’s no pose. The 23-year-old singer/guitarist is a walking rock-and-roll obsessive. “When you put on a Stones or Doors record, you’re there,” he mumbles excitedly from his home in Brighton, England, in a manic jumble of references. “You’re in their studio. Songs like ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ that is rock and roll to me. It’s got that Jagger swagger. And ‘I’m So Tired,’ that is genius. And ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun,’ it’s that whole vibe. Recently I am really getting into Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. There is one song, ‘Almost Cut My Hair,’ that is so grooving. And I got Buffalo Springfield Again; it is such an eclectic record. ‘Mr. Soul’ is a basic R&B/soul track, then they go into country music and harmonies. I can listen to that for days. It’s beautiful music.”

Pritchard’s band the Kooks, whose late 2006 debut charted multiple UK hit singles and landed on several year-end best-of lists, believe in musical mysticism and in that old-time religion as expressed in pre-digital, straight-to-tape recording. It’s what inspired the visceral Inside In/Inside Out (Astralwerks), an album that’s still making waves as they embark on a US tour that brings them to the Paradise this Sunday. (The disc’s current single, “Ooh La,” is iTunes’ “Single of the Week.”)

Originally a group of college chums, the Kooks — Pritchard, Hugh Harris (guitar), Max Rafferty (bass), and Paul Gerred (drums) — may be a Britpop band in name, but their organic rock is nothing like that of fawned-over peers like Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs. They’ve locked into that rock-and-roll element that goes straight to the gut. Beneath the rough surface of Inside In/Inside Out is the essence of classic ’60s rock.

“It’s the way we recorded the album — entirely to tape,” Pritchard says. “When you record four people in a room, you capture something underneath the music. . . . It is quite hard to get hold of tape today. I think Jack White bought it all up. But when you record to CD, there are many processes involved in getting the sound, from the mic to the recording desk to the computer to CD. When you record to tape, what you are playing is being burned directly onto a piece of magnetic tape. It’s not a computer or digital representation of your performance. The way computers record, they basically take snapshots of the sound wave, so you don’t actually get the whole picture. They take a snapshot every .001 seconds, so you miss out tiny little bits of the music. That stuff matters — you can feel it.”

Inside In/Inside Out’s cover — a shot of the Kooks hunched over their instruments, fingers forming chords, faces scrunched in concentration — says it all. No perfect hair or moon-faced poses here. And the disc has generated five singles that have whiplashed the UK charts. The opening “Seaside” (penned by drummer Paul Gerred) is all acoustic quiescence. The calm is then shattered by the punkish intensity of “See the World,” and those hitmaking hooks begin to surface on “Sofa Song,” which fuses the ferocity of the Clash with the winsome melodic sensibility of the Kinks. (The album was recorded at Ray Davies’s KONK Studios.) “Eddie’s Gun,” an amusing tale of adolescent erectile dysfunction (“Looking at the barrel of my gun/I hope I’m not the only one”), recalls the revved-up R&B swagger of the Jam, with Pritchard’s swooping, vowel-squashing delivery conjuring a young Paul Weller. “Ooh La,” Pritchard’s pick as the disc’s best track, is a bittersweet glam rocker, from its Bolan-like “pretty pretty petticoat” refrain to the chugging acoustic guitars of the chorus. And “Jackie Big Tits” (inspired by a character from the UK film Sexy Beast) is one big simple, strummy hook from start to finish, and British to the bone.

Of course, Britpop that’s this British hasn’t always gone over all that well on this side of the Atlantic. But that’s not something that worries the Kooks — it’s the music that matters most. “We work fucking hard,” Pritchard barks. “And at the end of the day, vibe and atmosphere should come before being clinical. To us perfection is imperfection. A band is human, it’s organic, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You capture a performance. Think of Exile on Main Street: it’s just the Stones in a room. That is what we wanted to get.”

Before joining his mates in a Brighton music school, Pritchard spent his childhood listening to the more than 7000 LPs in his father’s collection. His dad’s band, Bob Pritchard and the Echoes, opened for the Rolling Stones in 1962, a feat his son would match 44 years later. The elder Pritchard died of a heart attack when Luke was little more than a toddler, leaving him with all that vinyl, and a first-edition set of Henry Miller. It instilled in him a sense of history, and unfinished family business. With the Kooks, it’s also translated into a sound that can seem at odds with all the American music he grew up on.

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  Topics: Music Features , Luke Pritchard , The Kooks , Buffalo Springfield ,  More more >
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True believers
Mike RULES!!! What he is saying is so right on. I love this guy and The Street Dogs!
By JoyDivision on 01/06/2007 at 3:57:38

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