Brighton, England’s the Kooks are the latest bright young things to have scored at home and seek to win an away game. But as they say in soccer, the Kooks, in their L.A. debut, played a game of two halves.
Influenced more by classic British rock, the Kooks most closely resemble a watered-down Kinks: They’ve got a knack for melody and catchy tunes, but there’s little trace of Ray Davies’ wry wit. Lead singer Luke Pritchard’s lyrics don’t extend to arch observations of English society; they go only as far as the end of the pier — girls, booze and sunshine. Nothing wrong with that, but it does little to build a rep beyond the latest flash in the pan from across the pond.
Pritchard demonstrates two sides to his appeal. He’s well studied in the Richard Ashcroft playbook (itself taking pages from Jagger), with his youthful good looks and swagger no doubt endearing him to the disproportionate number of young women in attendance. He bounds around the stage, preening over his adoring aud, working the crowd into a frenzy on band’s hit singles like “Naive,” a U.K. No. 1.
But on their other songs he seems a little less sure of himself and his lyrics. Not as comfortable with these, he feels his way through each song as it goes along. Clearly, there is another side lurking beneath his young, brash rock ‘n’ roll exterior. Strumming acoustic set opener “Seaside” suggested there’s a sensitive songwriter in Pritchard waiting to break out. The Kooks must seize upon that songwriting potential to sustain any success.
Band took a few songs to hit their stride — peaking mid-set with a couple of tunes relying on staccato rhythm guitar over a ska beat — and subsequently overstayed their welcome. Bizarrely, aud greeted the band with screams of adulation as they walked onstage, but once they left, the applause died quickly and an awkward silence permeated the room. Hence, no encore. The Kooks play Brooklyn’s North Six on Saturday.