Review : Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval
PopmattersThe Kaiser Chiefs hold an awkward place in the 2005 class of British post-punk revivalists. They never had a problem matching the kinetic energy of Maximo Park or the Futureheads, but Ricky Wilson and company seemed to lack the endearing underdog quality their peers flaunted so effortlessly. In fact, the Kaiser Chiefs were an odd placement into the post-punk class in the first place. The ‘90s Britpop of Supergrass and Blur held just as much influence over their successful debut, 2005’s Employment, and when their sophomore effort came out two years later, the band was admittedly drawing from American classic rock of the 1970s.
For a band whose appeal was built on breakneck choruses and unbridled ebullience, The Future Is Medieval strides more than a few paces from the Chiefs’ traditional comfort zone. Per usual, their single choice, almost-raucous opener “Little Shocks” isn’t too distant a cousin of “Ruby” or “I Predict a Riot”, though the record as a whole is something of a departure. Once content to barricade songs around walls of guitar and piano key pounding, tracks like “Things Change” and “Starts With Nothing” do quite a bit of beating around the bush, which was never part of this quintet’s primary skill set. This, in addition to number of downright boring songs (“Child of the Jago”, “Out of Focus”) renders Medieval a downright lethargic listen at 13 songs. For a band once built around spry choruses and chugging guitars, this is a costly error indeed....full text
BbcLeeds’ Kaiser Chiefs aren’t a band immediately associated with innovation – their perky indie-pop has livened up many a festival with a series of "nah-nah-nah-nah-nah"-style nonsense, but their popularity has never been founded upon originality. But the five-piece have looked to a potential future for music distribution for their fourth album, allowing fans to compile their own version of The Future Is Medieval from their official website. What this means is that one buyer will receive a very different set to the next (you can even choose your own cover); and what it means for the reviewer is that their critical take might not relate at all to the reader’s experience.
Putting fans in control is very nice, of course (and the website interface is a lot of fun). But what does it mean for the band? Could they not decide between these 20 songs? The Future Is Medieval can’t be seen as any true statement, artistically, because the product is so flexible. This is not Kaiser Chiefs "doing a Radiohead" – Radiohead presented a very definite release (with both In Rainbows and The King of Limbs), suitably sequenced by the makers themselves. Do the Kaisers care not for the album format? (Arguably, no – they have always seemed a singles band first.) This is a mix-tape really, not a long-player in the traditional sense. And before listening to any of these tracks, the cynical can see its launch as a way of distracting from the diminishing returns of the band’s music over their three previous collections. Off With Their Heads? More like Get This Off My Stereo, Thanks....full text
IndependentYou'd think that the best way to reinvigorate a career slipping into the doldrums would be to focus on quality – so it's brave of Kaiser Chiefs to go the contrary route and opt for quantity instead, with the caveat that fans pick their 10 favourite tracks from the 20 offered online, abnegating to listeners decisions about sequencing and quality.
It's a decent marketing gimmick, though any other benefits are less certain. Hearing brief excerpts of each track is hardly the most reliable method by which to make one's choice; though having listened to all 20 in their entirety, I can confirm that by track 17, one's attention desperately seeks any passing distraction. And will all sales be conveniently aggregated as one for the purposes of calibrating chart position? Because ultimately, it seems less like an extension of consumer "choice" and more like an attempt to sell two albums at the same time, most hardcore fans being likely to download the first 10 tracks as one album, then the remaining 10 tracks as another – with both counting towards the one product. Or am I just being cynical?
Certainly, some tracks – "Saying Something", "My Place Is Here" – could have been designed as filler, while others slip by virtually unnoticed. Others are slim ideas polished into finished pieces. And even some of the better songs lack that adhesive zeitgeist quality that used to be the group's stock-in-trade. But at its best, there's enough variety and invention to recall The Beatles, sometimes directly: the wan, Lennonesque vocal and acoustic guitar of "If You Will Have Me", a son's touching message to estranged parents; the plonking, music-hall tack-piano and harmonies of "When All Is Quiet"; and the "Tomorrow Never Knows" drumbeat behind the Francis Durbridge thriller-theme guitar and keyboard of "I Dare You"....full text
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