Soundchecks Music Reviews

Kaiser Chiefs

review by Andrew Darlington

Of course, it's great fun to lyrically deconstruct. Google 'due to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled' and you find it was a catchy 1969 buzz-phrase, the title of a factional return-to-college book by Irene Kampen, and also a 1971 BBC-TV eco-disaster programme narrated by Paul Vaughan. And yes, that line about the function only to breathe has got to be The Air That I Breathe, the Hollies' hit written by Phil Everly. While the clocks reset and the pendulum held is Wystan Auden's poem Funeral Blues as recited in Three Weddings & A Funeral. Perhaps it's taking it one step too far to suggest that the song-title itself is a reference to Dion's Ruby Baby - but it just might be.

Whatever, it's a wonderful song. When its iTunes category comes up 'alternative', it begs the obvious 'alternative-to-what?' response, because this is classy mainstream pop at its best: literate playful power-pop at the top of its game. Who'd have believed it? When (Runston) Parva started out support gigging at the fondly remembered Duchess on Vicar Lane, at Joseph's Well or the Fenton they were grungy no-hope contenders. Until they went away, rethought themselves. Re-branded with a reference to Lucas Radabe's old South African football team, and Ricky, Simon, Andrew, and Nick's H & B came back immaculately transfigured. I Predict A Riot grabbed NME's record-of-the-week status. Oh My God gave them the status of one of the final bands to celebrate their top 20 debut with an energetically-charged Top Of The Pops slot, and they completed the year's run by beaming in a Live8 appearance... from Philadelphia. Already they were just about the biggest band ever to come out of Leeds, despite my respect for the Mekons and the Gang Of Four, despite the wonderful Chumbawamba... they're bigger even than Christie, and let's leave the Goths out of this, OK?

So where next for Kaiser Chiefs? Well - a #1 single that's great fun to lyrically deconstruct, for a start. Featured on a second album that's as good, and better, than we have any right to expect. Trouble is, this time around you deduct the revelation-discovery newness factor, because we know what Kaiser Chiefs sound like, we know what Kaiser Chiefs do, they do it witty and articulate, and now they do it witty and articulate again. Perhaps they've traded in the testosterone Riot-squad for the kind of 'Angry Mob' who become enraged by Daily Mail lead-stories about hordes of Euro-scroungers from eastern accession member states. Perhaps Everything Is Average Nowadays has provoked comparisons with Modern Life Is Rubbish, but although the song is possibly Blur's distant relation, the Kaiser's are more New York(shire) in outlook, parading the kind of gritty humour Jarvis Cocker should be writing.

Even the creative lyric-pilfering behind Ruby is less evidence of plagiarism, and more of respect for the Brainiac precedents of other's well-chosen lit-power. By way of further evidence they add a muscular guitar spine to I Can Do Without You, framing a narrative about their "return to the north again" on a mobile-infested train where "everybody has to talk," leading into an unsentimental romanticism in which "I remember nights out when we were young,/ they weren't very good, they were rubbish" (in High Royds). The slower Love's Not A Competition (But I'm Winning) and the piano-led 1:33-minute Boxing Champ vary the pace competently. And any band that samples the greatest psychedelic classic of all time - Electric Prunes' I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night, as the Kaisers do on Heat Dies Down, are more than alright with me. Finally, Retirement is the natural humorous closure to Employment. Can they do it a third time? Worry about that in 2008... In the meantime this fun package will do more than nicely.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press