Friday, October 17, 2008

Kaiser Chiefs, Off With Their Heads

The Yorkshire Five are back

Don't mess with a winning formula. It's with this firmly in mind that Kaiser Chiefs recorded Off With Their Heads, their third album in three and a half years.

Kaiser Chiefs' rise has been meteoric. The extreme hummability of their debut Employment (featuring juke box regulars I Predict A Riot and Oh My God), sealed the band's fate amongst the all-time greats of British pop. 2007's Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the one featuring ubiquitous Ruby, did its job alright, taking no risks and upholding the band's status as purveyors of infectious singalongs.

Let it be said that in this day and age of bands routinely releasing a record every three or four years, Kaiser Chiefs' working pace is to be saluted. Some may be of the opinion that, had they waited a little, Off With Their Heads may have sounded more inspired. However, it's a good album. Recent single Never Miss a Beat follows the I Predict A Riot template, as it revisits the band's trademark woah-woah's. Lyricswise, it's just genius. A spot-on portrayal of today's Britain, it mocks the toxic notion that not being 'bovved' is just so 'wicked': "What did you learn today?/ I learned nothin/ What did you do today?/ I did nothin/ What did you learn at school?/ I didn't go/ Why didn't you go to school?/ I don't know/ It's cool to know nothin/ What do you want for tea/I want crisps".

The band's influences are once again worn on their sleeves. The Beatles, Blur, XTC are still there. But what's good about Kaiser Chiefs is that they're quite candid and humble about it. There are no Damon Albarn-esque pretentions of artistic superiority. Not even the presence of flavour-of-the-month producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen) seems to have altered the general direction. So in the event Ronson's the chief reason for your purchase, don't expect any retro-soul horns otherwise you may want to ask for the money back.

The opener Spanish Metal is possibly the only track coming from a different angle, as it contains a vague flamenco flavour and a progressive touch. The album gets a touch dull when it hits Like it too Much and You Want History as well as Addicted to Drugs, a pastiche of Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love which doesn't quite cut it. However, the whole affair picks up again nicely with Tomato in The Rain and the supremely catchy Half the Truth. Mark these words, that's going to be the next single. The gentler Remember You're A Girl, sung by drummer Nick Hodgson is most certainly a cheesy finale. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if you're into any of what Kaiser Chiefs have done up to now. Off With Their Heads is a decent album, one that won't make history but that won't wreck Kaiser Chiefs' superb moment of notoriety either. It doesn't have the immediacy of Employment, but then again, most debut albums tend to be in a league of their own.

[Off With Their Heads is out on Oct 20th on B-Unique/Universal]

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