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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

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In Music

The Kooks have impeccable taste in T-shirts. Guitarist Hugh Harris is in back, wearing a hat. (PHOTO: Timothy Norris)

Gig roundup: Infection can't konk The Kooks


Late last month when we talked to Hugh Harris, guitarist for Brighton, England's The Kooks, singer Luke Pritchard was on doctor's orders to clam up, thanks to the ravages a throat infection.

"He got it last year at the end of the year, so we canceled a couple of shows," said Harris. "He started to sing and just could not hit any high notes at all."

From a Milwaukee standpoint, there was plenty of time until The Kooks were due to play at Turner Hall Ballroom, where they have a gig on June 1. But things were a little edgier for the band.

"(We have a gig) tonight," said Harris grimly, referring to a date at Sheffield's Carling Academy. "That's the thing, he's not allowed to talk. It's not bad enough yet for us to cancel the gig, but then again after tonight's gig (the tour) might have to be canceled."

Luckily, none of those dates was canceled and the U.S. tour is underway and arrives here Sunday for an 8 p.m. show with The Morning Benders.

The quartet -- with new bassist Dan Logan, who replaces Max Rafferty, who left in January after a long string of issues with his fellow band members -- is on the road touting its second disc, "Konk," named for Ray Davies' London studio where the raw, straight-up rock and roll disc was recorded.

Like its predecessor, "Inside In/Inside Out," the CD was produced by Tony Hoffer.

"We were really happy to be working with him again," said Harris. "The first record was just so rushed how we did it, we never had time to sit down and properly formulate ideas. It was mainly just get in the studio and play songs. He arranged them and that's it. This time around we wanted to get down to the bare knuckles of it all really and go through a lot more sounds a lot more ideas, a lot more ways of playing the songs. We experimented a lot more.

"It is a different approach. The sounds are a lot bigger, a lot fatter and we're a lot better musicians. The record sounds as a whole like a million times more dynamic and intricate."

The result is a melodic rock and roll record with doot-doot-doots and la-la-las reminiscent of The Kinks, guitar figures and melodies that call to mind The Smiths and a cohesiveness that the band's 2006 debut -- for all its charms -- couldn't boast.

"See the Sun" has a bluesy intro and a George Harrison-style guitar figure and "Always Where I Need To Be" is a chunky Merseybeat update. "Mr. Maker" is a "Smithers-Jones" (by The Jam) for the new millennium. "One Last Time" is the perfect raw and melancholy closer.

"We had a grip on our sound for the second one," Harris said. "On the first one was sort of a gadabout. We sort of jumped from genre to genre and I think that was sort of experimental in a way but also trying to find what The Kooks' sound is. On the second one we settled down a lot more. It's a very settled second record. It's quite simple, straightforward; which is what we wanted. We didn't want anything too drastic."

Of course, it's too early to say if The Kooks will tap Hoffer for disc number three, and predicting where the band will go is no easy feat, either. Harris said the band will go where its instincts lead it.

Based on "Rak," a bonus disc accompanying deluxe versions of "Konk," it's easy to see that the band has varied talents. An alternate version of "See the Sun" is dramatically different than the "Konk" version and tunes like "No Longer," "Watching the Ships Roll In" and "By My Side" are as strong as the tunes that made the cut for "Konk."

"We're always playing around with new ideas but the less control we try and have over that, the more natural the development will be. I think we'll just sod along and do our thing and sort of not worry about where we're going with our sound."

Since the release of "Konk" in mid-April (at which point it shot straight to the No. 1 slot on the U.K. album chart), The Kooks have toured the U.K. and Europe and kicked off the American leg of the jaunt on May 18 in San Diego. After Milwaukee the band heads east.

"We're getting to grips with playing our new album now," said Harris. "It's going quite well, really."

And in Milwaukee?

"Expect a party. Or several parties in one night. Like the best party you've ever been to but times 100 in one night."

Some other gigs on tap this week include:

The Deep End Ensemble brings its free and organized experimental jazz to Hotcakes Gallery on Wednesday, May 28. The group includes guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil, horn man Eddy Rollin, double bassist Wilbo Wright and percussionist Ian Ash. Don't miss what will likely be the last new music series installment at Hotcakes, which is due to close in July. Cover is $7.

Montreal's Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band is on the road supporting its disc, "13 Blues for Thirteen Moons," and stops at Turner Hall Ballroom on Friday, May 30. The mesmerizing band is led by three members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and shares the stage with The Dead Science at Turner. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is $14.

Bang Camaro, a five-piece Boston band that has been known to perform with as many as 19 lead singers, plays at the Miramar Theatre on June 5 at 8 p.m. as part of its League of Chaos Tour.


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