“We do have things in there that are meant to say ‘we like this band'”. And so the echoes of British pop music begin and to be fair you don’t have to look very far. Stephen Street, the producer of Blur for many years is drafted in and the clues continue with the lyrics and the subjects and ultimately the pose that The Kaiser Chiefs adopt.
The Kaiser Chiefs are Brit Pop then. They are a very British, art school ironic pose of a band. They are Blur, Super Grass and more recent incarnations like Franz Ferdinand and the excellent Libertines. At their best they do what Brit Pop has always done best, they report British society. At their worst their music is facile, unmemorable, lyrically poor, their knowingness tiresome and boring, like an old joke told again and again during the course of the past 40 years. Welcome to England.
At their best in songs like “I Predict a Riot” the Kaiser Chiefs are the Jam, the Small Faces, and The Kinks. They tell us about the absurd characters and situations that exist in the average town centre in the pubs and shops. At their best their songs have pathos, energy, drive; a cocky arrogance that musicians should have when they are telling u something. The urgency of “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” is infectious, its paranoid and slightly dark comic take on getting over someone draws u in to a time when u too were sent slightly deranged by moving on. “Oh My God” is another song that builds to a rocking climax, its slightly twee melody giving way to yelps and guitars. “Na Na Na Na Naa” sums up their eccentricity and also their debt to Blur and Supergrass in particular.
As amusing as the Kaiser Chiefs can be, “coming back stronger like a powered up pac man”, or in genius lyrics like ‘Pn-n-n-neumothorax is a word that is long but I’m just tryin’ to put some punk back into punctured lung’, they are also annoying in the way that someone being cool and ironic can be smug and irritating. Ultimately, they remind me of the six form kids who are too cool for school, and the adults they become, the grown up art school adults still wearing their school blazers and ties with hi tops.
And I suppose thats it really in a nut shell, for all that there is to admire about this album, for all the new energy it gives to the familiar Brit Pop pose, there is also so much to hate and resent about “Employment”. Quirky song lyrics are fine if the songs are written with variety but the Kaiser Chiefs over reliance on the safe short sharp rhyming couplet becomes annoying. By the end of the album you can predict which obvious rhyme they are going to use and complete it for them in advance. The formula works well for the hi energy songs where the lyrics are enhanced by screeches and yelps and the staccato lines help punch the songs home but in the slower songs the lyrics are never enough to sustain our interest. Slowed down the rhyme scheme is plodding and repetitive. Since most of the slow songs pack the second half of the album you can write off that half pretty much. It feels unbalanced then, slightly top heavy with the hits.
Ultimately, the Kaiser Chiefs are more of the same rather than the next big thing but there is still much here to enjoy and amuse given that more of the same draws upon some of the best elements of Brit Pop. The only problem is that it draws in equal measure upon what’s always been annoying about Brit Pop.
This said, I like them more now having seen them do a live set on Jools Holland, a particularly fine music show here in England. From that show I can also recommend the music of Martha Wainwright (her song Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole was amazing) and Van Morrisonâ€™s new stuff. Frank Blacks new solo work is also really good and the Eels new stuff remains as excellent as their old and likely to equally not get the recognition it deserves. Anyway, live the Kaiser Chiefs were excellent, their lead singer mad, surely coked up as he jumped around and yelped. Their drummer looks like a young ronnie wood and is cool as hell in his braces and all in all if they come to a town near you you should see them because I suspect it will be better than their studio produced work.