Having watched the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi crash and burn with their early 2000s changes in direction, fellow mid-noughties indie band the Kooks, perhaps unsurprisingly, only tentatively step outside their usual comfort zone on third effort Junk of the Heart. "Time Above the Earth" smothers Luke Pritchard's distinctive, slurring tones in layers of lush strings to produce the band's first fully orchestral offering, "Taking Pictures of You" is a slightly experimental slice of ambient pop, packed with languid grooves, buzzing synths, and reverb-drenched reverse guitar effects, while "Runaway" has shades of the Police with its cod-reggae beats, subtle synths, and new wave melodies. But with regular producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air) still on board, the majority of Junk's 12 tracks feature the same kind of inoffensive, acoustic, Brit-pop songs about girls that saw debut Inside In, Inside Out and follow-up Konk top the U.K. charts. The jangly, Dodgy-esque, summery opening title track, the breezy Kinks-esque harmonies of "Eskimo Kiss," and the rousing, singalong chorus of "How'd You Like That" seem destined to sit at the top of commercial radio playlists for months on end, but there's very little to get excited about with the cliched soft rock break-up song "Killing Me," the derivative honky tonk of "Mr. Nice Guy," and the plodding "F*** the World Off," whose lazy rhythms and gentle folk riffs are more "let's sit down and have a cup of tea" than the expletive defiance in its title. It's hard to see where the Kooks fit in among a musical landscape that has altered dramatically during their three-year hiatus, and while their play-it-safe approach may mean they're less likely to suffer the rapid sales decline of their contemporaries, they are now in danger of becoming indie pop's answer to Westlife.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien