Music review entries

February 27, 2005


Kaiser Chiefs
4 out of 5 stars

Employment? It's rubbish – I mean, unlike studenthood, you get paid money you can keep, but it's not very much and you have to surrender your autonomy to evil capitalists for a significant period of your waking life if you are to get any substantial return for your time, effort and soul, and a hefty chunk of that goes missing courtesy of the taxman anyway…

But this isn't about my disillusionment with the Real World and my cog-like prospects in it; this is about the Kaiser Chiefs, an up-and-coming young beat combo from Leeds, whose debut album I got my ears on last week – a whole fortnight prior to its actual release! And I've been listening to it since, cos it's so good.

Their single, the marvellous Oh My God, currently sitting at the dizzy heights hotel of Number Six in this week's chart, is far from the best thing on here. Can't say what is; it's hard to pick out a highlight, but there's little in the way of filler on this 12-track masterpiece. I'm particularly fond of last year's I Predict A Riot - a latter-day Ghost Town - and I Was Born To Be A Dancer.

Their sound? Well, any casual observer would pigeonhole them as yet another quirky indie-rock group who, for their idiosyncrasies, paradoxically can't be pigeonholed (cf. The Zutons, Dogs Die In Hot Cars, The Futureheads). They blend the dark and sinister with the bright and breezy with aplomb, employing a different keyboard effect for each song – I suppose that would be their gimmick if I were to hack them one. Their music does remind you of…someone – who though, you can't quite put your finger on. Admittedly, they strike you as rather derivative, but they use so many influences and assimilate them so well in the final product, you forgive them and can't but smile.

Lyrically, they take the archness and wit from the Divine Comedy: from ...Riot, "Watching the people get lairy | It's not very pretty I tell thee"; from Saturday Night, "P-p-p-pneumothorax is a word that is long | Just trying to put some punk back into punctured lung" (one for the biologists there).

Musically, they're very sixties with harmonies and a blatant nod to the Beach Boys in Caroline, Yes; they're very seventies with piano-led glam-stomp in Na Na Na Na Naa and Saturday Night; very eighties in a Stranglers style; very nineties with clear Supergrass and Oasis-influenced good-time rock 'n' roll. Remember Electric Soft Parade, with their 2002 Britpop pick 'n' mix, Holes In The Wall? You could say the Kaisers are like them, but a bit more animated; either way, they sound a lot like the Brighton duo on the album closer, Team Mate. So, very noughties too, I suppose.

So, if that list of recording artists past and present sounds like your bag, baby, then you'll like Employment by the Kaiser Chiefs. But I'd hate to recommend them solely on the merits of their influences - they can pen a funny lyric and a floor-filling tune. They're great live, too.

One last word on these 'quirky indie-rock' types who've stormed the pages of the NME and the CD players of RaW in the past year. The amount of quality music they've produced is astonishing, but are any of them – Franz F included – capable of topping their debuts? I'm afraid I'm quite pessimistic – enjoy this glut while it lasts and buy Employment next Monday.

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