A Pretty OK Song: "No Pressure" - The Kooks
There's so much new music to choose from this month! Not only is there the new Arctic Monkeys album that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, but there's a new Father John Misty record and a ton of great new rap too. But no matter how hard I try, I can't shake "No Pressure," the new song by the Kooks.
Who are the Kooks?, you say. Well, the Brighton band, who I first heard on 2011's Junk of the Heart, are a hard group to nail down. There's definitely a British Invasion element, but there's a rock edge too, and some elements of funk and reggae thrown in for good measure. And there's an infectious energy that ties the whole mix together.
"No Pressure" reminds me of another favorite of mine: "Simple Song" by the Shins. They don't necessarily sound that much alike, but they both swell to these massive choruses that are perfect for cranking the volume with the windows down. It might be a weak comparison, but if you listen to the two tracks back to back, I think you'll feel it too. While we're on the subject of lousy comparisons, the song starts with a subtle organ sound. "Simple Song" does too, but I think of it more like a less-soulful version of the beginning of Sade's "By Your Side."
There are some interesting structural decisions in "No Pressure" that I feel qualified to tell you about since I took music theory classes in college. My professors suggested that most songs end one of two ways: A song either goes out with a bang or a whimper. Heavy metal song? The bang is coming. Soft rock? More of a whimper. I know it seems obvious, but it's still a conscious decision. You don't see ballads ending with blaring horns.
But the Kooks have opened my eyes to a third way. The last chorus fades out and gives way to a live audience shout-singing along. It's more of a whimper than a bang, but it's still got some power to it. The transition is seamless enough that it didn't even catch me off guard the first time I heard the track; all I thought was "What a neat decision."
It's not all perfect. For one thing, the chorus hits way too early. I know that great songs hook their listeners in and don't let them go, but 30 seconds into the track seems a little rushed. And the song is far from lyrically deep...but I don't care. It's still summertime, and all I want to do is drive around with the windows down and this song playing at full blast.
Until next week.