On the surface of it, you might have expected The Kooks' second album to endure a difficult birth. Their huge rise in mainstream popularity during 2006/2007 brought with it a barrage of criticism from those who class themselves 'the musical elite'.

NME pretty much shunned them; Lily Allen openly derided frontman Luke Pritchard; while Johnny Borrell (a man in no position to cast stones) engaged in a war of words with the band.

In all, The Kooks' jangly, melodic Britpop was lampooned by a musical peerage content to instead place all plaudits at the feet of the band's fellow 2006 debutants, Arctic Monkeys.

Added to such professional and personal criticism came inner-turmoil in the form of chemically wayward bassist Max Rafferty.

Pritchard's best friend began to display Pete Doherty-like behaviour in failing to make gigs, tours or spending minimal amount of time in studio and maximum amount of times drowned in anxiety and drug abuse. Given the band's ambitions, a painful parting of ways was always on the cards.

All of these exterior difficulties at the age of 20/21 were bound to affect on the business of songwriting; and of course they did, but not in the negative way you might assume.

The Kooks have navigated around clichéd "difficult" second album syndrome to produce a record that belies their youth. Mature, melodic and masterful in its execution, 'Konk' is a fine guitar record that tips its hat to the masters of British pop - The Kinks, Blur, The Beatles.

Fittingly recorded in Ray Davies' London studio (from where the album takes its title), the record is most notable for Hugh Harris' emergence as one of the finer guitarists of his generation. Changing style at will, Harris' riffs, slides and sublime playing inject Pritchard's initial folk-influenced ideas with maturity and depth.

As the band's driving force he guides the Brighton four-piece through bluesy Stones influence rock ('Do You Wanna'); Kinks-esque hippy pop ('Mr Maker'); jingly Brit Pop ('Stormy Weather') and typical "do, do, do" Kooks terrain ('Always Where I Need to Be').

Just as on 'Inside Out/Inside In', there are a host of singles present – from the catchy if derivative 'Shine On', to standout track 'Sway'.

The latter stems from Rafferty's difficulties, with Pritchard singing of the former bassist: "Be whoever you have to be/To get it out and not become/A reactionary to hurt the ones you love."  It has festival anthem written all over it.

There is of course the occasional clanger. The slow, acoustic driven 'One Last Time' drags proceedings down, never really going anywhere and displaying Pritchard's immaturity as a lyricist. However, it stands alone as the only really poor track present.

The Kooks' emergence at the same time as Arctic Monkeys will always (unfairly) draw them into comparison with the Sheffield four-piece. In truth, Alex Turner and Co are ploughing a different musical course and making music arguably best appreciated by a more educated musical mind.

The Kooks on the other head are a teenage music fan's wet dream and, in this regard, are best bracketed alongside The Stone Roses, Blur and Pulp as purveyors of fine, inventive British pop. Long may it continue.

Steve Cummins

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