Kaiser Chiefs

The Future Is Medieval

Written by: TL on 06/09/2011 00:40:38

Although I am continually working to know all that is worth knowing in the rock scene, it often humbles me to think of the number of sizeable bands that I haven't managed to get into although I probably should. One such band is Kaiser Chiefs, who've been a big deal in British rock ever since exploding into fame with their 2005 debut "Employment", and yet still, I've never managed to get into more than the odd single. When they recently returned from a brief hiatus to release their fourth album "The Future Is Medieval" however, I decided that now was the time, and hence here's a review of that record. Made special (okay, made worse) by the fact that I can't very well compare it as much to old KC material as I can try to appreciate it as being more or less a newcomer to the band.

Wait just one second though, because as fans will know, this has been one bloody untraditional release. You see instead of making "The Future Is Medieval" an ordinary album, Kaiser Chiefs first recorded twenty tracks of which previews were made available on their website. Then listeners were allowed to buy an album with ten tracks of their choosing, in the order of their choosing, with the artwork of their choosing, for seven and a half British pounds. That's already pretty special, but it gets weirder, because fans were then encouraged to promote their version of the album via the band's website, and for each similar copy they sold, the band would give them one pound back. Basically sell eight copies and you're making a profit as a promoter.. What the fuck?

After this had gone on for a while though, the band eventually decided to conform and release a thirteen track album representing what they considered the optimal version. And because I'm a conservative asshole, who has too much ADHD to appreciate anything longer than fourteen songs, and who thinks it's part of a band's job to select which of their songs are good enough to go on their albums, this is the version of the album I'm reviewing, not the full twenty songs available. You can count this as one more thing that makes this a shitty review, just as you can stop reading whenever you like.

If you want to read about the music though, know that Kaiser Chiefs have always admittedly been inspired by new wave and punk rock from the seventies, and that "The Future Is Medieval" does not break with this tendency, although it does showcase that even more quirky ideas have snuck into the band's very distinctly British sounding indie-rock. There are male vocal harmonies that sound like an English version of Beach Boys (see: "When All Is Quiet"), there are psychedelic moments that seem to stretch the songs, making them feel longer than they are and reminding me of The Horrors, and there are strange electronic effects that makes me think I'm listening to an interlude on a Hawkwind record.

As strange as these elements may sound however, Kaiser Chiefs haven't made it this far just by being strange, and it doesn't actually take very many listens before you start to realise that the songs are surprisingly recognisable, hell, even catchy. "Child Of The Jago" is a good example, with its chorus lending its words to the album title, as is "Heard It Break", the lyrics of which play on the expression 'heart break', wondering if it's rather just a 'heart sprain'.

In fact, the more you listen, the more you'll start to realise that "The Future Is Medieval" is a damn consistent effort when it comes to being memorable. The problem is that this is largely the consequence of Kaiser Chiefs generally having a sort of 'pop' quality to them. It's a bit contradictory, seeing as they're as quirky and indie as can be, but my meaning is that their songs seem more about being playful and catchy than about evoking any particularly strong emotions in the listener. That's something I personally look for in my rock music, and I find it subtracts from my appreciation for the album, that it only engages my intellect and my subconcious 'singalong instinct' while never getting me particularly fired up in any way. Simply speaking, it makes me want to use words like "cool", "interesting" and "good", but not ones like "awesome", "brilliant" or "great", and as often before, that difference ultimately translates into a number around the mark of:

Download: Child Of The Jago, Starts With Nothing, If You Will Have Me
For The Fans Of: Maximo Park, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian, The Horrors
Listen: facebook.com/kaiserchiefs

Release Date 27.06.2011
Fiction/Universal Music Group

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