Friday, December 26, 2014

My Amazon Reviews: The Kooks "Listen"

Kook Funk
3 Out Of 5 Stars

The Kooks have become an entirely different band since their debut. What began as a band that used The Kinks and The Arctic Monkeys as a jumping off point has reinvented itself as, of all things, funky. Soulful background vocals, disco-fied guitars, use of electronic drums and other trappings cover a lot of ground on "Listen." It's a much better album that the lackadaisical "Junk Of The Heart," but I never expected them to want to be Chic. Or Daft Punk.

The biggest culprit here is "Down," which breaks into a "down down, diggity down down diggy diggy down" (Kid Rock, anyone?) hook. Along with an insistent bass, it's a song that wouldn't be out of place to get a polished up club remix. The big soul vocal backups from "Around Down" bust the album wide open from the very beginning, Granted, this is a far more exciting album than "Junk" was, but not the direction I ever thought I'd hear The Kooks aiming for.

There are a couple classicist pop tunes here, like "Bad Habit" or the squiggly synth in "Dreams," lead singer Luke Pritchard has an engaging voice, and guitarist Hugh Harris and bassist Max Rafferty get a real chance to strut their stuff. Along with a touch of irony; in my I-tunes library, "Listen" buttresses Kool And The Gang" without the feeling changing up very much. So if you came here looking for the inspiring "Konk" or the perkiness of their debut, you won't find it on "Listen." But if you want a serving of dance-rock, you'll get what you came for.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Amazon Reviews: Neon Trees "Pop Psychology"

Four Chords and a Beat Keep Me Alive
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Neon Trees make flashy 80's inspired pop in primary colors. Lot's of flash, plenty of synth-buzz and jittery guitars, all sung over big hooks and plenty of melodies. They proved that they were capable of writing a radio ready song with "Everybody Talks," a song catchy enough to get covered by the cast of Glee. Unfortunately, that song set the bar high enough that expecting the new "Pop Psychology" to be more of that kind of flawless pop. Unfortunately, they fall short.

Not for a lack of trying. The first three songs are mighty fine pop tunes, and "Sleeping With A Friend" comes closest to the effervescence of "Everybody Talks," while "Text Me In The Morning" is goofy enough to cling to the roof of your brain. There's a duet in the form of "Unavoidable" that's pretty good, as well.

But that leaves the rest of the disc, Most of it is indistinguishable from much of the many bands worshiping at the alter of 80's new wave, and lead singer Tyler Glenn chirps his way through "Pop Psychology" like every song has to be drilled in your head through sheer force of his happy singing style, For one or two songs, it's OK, but after a bit you want him to change it up a little. You're all but ready to beg him to show a little angst or something.

"Pop Psychology" ends with one more plea for getting together. "First Things First" is a peppy song about putting your needs to the front of your life, to "get what you deserve." Neon Trees, to the very end, want you to enjoy themselves and yourself. Not a bad message, but there's too much sugary sameness and not enough by way of killer material to make the grade of the CD go any higher than average.


Monday, December 8, 2014

My Amazon Reviews: OK Go "Hungry Ghosts"

Appetite For Power Pop
4 Out Of 5 Stars

For better or for worse, OK Go are more known as the band who make videos of themselves on treadmills and inside contraptions made up to look like real life versions of the Mousetrap game. What gets overlooked is that, for four albums now, there's a first rate pop-rock band hidden behind the paint balls. "Hungry Ghosts," four years after "Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky," captures that effortless pop fun that the band has been excelling at since their debut.

Admittedly, the oddly funky and falsetto filled "Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky" was a divisive album for fans, but that can be forgiven here. "Hungry Ghosts" keeps some of "Colour's" quirks while integrating them into the new music. It means the twitchy new wave of the debut is tempered into sonic neatness like the atmospheric "Another Set of Issues." They haven't completely forgone their fascination with Prince by way of The Cars, like the cowbell clanging "Obsession" and the danceable "I Won't Let You Down" shows. Vocalist Damian Kulash gleefully bounds from the straightforward power pop vocals to the funky stuff while making the whole of "Hungry Ghosts" a cohesive album.

While "Oh No" remains OK Go's high-water mark, "Hungry Ghosts" is a crowd pleaser. Fans will be happy to hear OK Go in fine form, and note that the four year wait was well worth it. From the pop magic of "Upside Down and Inside Out" that opens things up to the gentle strains of the final "Lullaby," this is a solid album from beginning to end, proving they can have their say without adorable trained dogs to guide them.