The lads from Leeds are back with Start the Revolution Without Me, the second album released since their three-year hiatus that ended in 2011. For those of you who remember, last year, after releasing The Future is Medieval, the British multi-genre band, Kaiser Chiefs, made a “Create Your Own Album” application on their website so their fans could shuffle through the 20 new tracks and order their own 10-song arrangement—or just buy the CD.
STRWM features eight songs from TFIM and five new songs, including the much-anticipated “Kinda Girl You Are” (which was meant to be added to TFIM but wasn’t ready in time).
“I think we’re a bit more relaxed now than with the last album. Our previous songs tended to have a certain amount of urgency to them… [Now they] are more mature,” said Andrew “Whitey” White, the guitarist and background vocalist, to Interview Magazine.
Relaxed? Not really. While a few of their songs are indeed mellow and get as close to lullabies as the Kaisers are ever going to get—like “Man on Mars”, sung by drummer and background vocalist Nick Hodgson (the one with the adorable Beatles ’do)—most of them imitate the electric guitar solos and upbeat drum accompaniments of their older hits, like “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” [sic] from their 2005 debut album Employment, which was without question their most successful. If anything, they’ve been experimenting, as their few yet very catchy chorus lyrics must battle to be heard above the powerful asynthesized beats (think David Bowie circa Scary Monsters).
After a few listens, you get the gist of their alternative style. Their signature electro-mix openings set the beat for each song. Next, a rough electric guitar and drum combo ignite the beat and extend it, you could say. Maybe not as rhythmic as the Killers, but you get the idea. Usually, the Kaisers begin with a stanza of non-rhyming lyrics that probably don’t mean what you think they mean.
Take “Little Shocks”, the combined effort of the band and producer Tony Visconti—who is best known for “helping out” David Bowie in over 15 of his singles. This song’s lyrics go, “I’ll be a somebody, I found an empty glass today at home, / give me ability, turn up the pedal away from his hand.” Live-in alcoholic, maybe? And what about “What the driver saw through the letter box of number four”? Well, maybe that one clears the waters a little. “Little Shocks” is a dark, low-pitched number where the guitar takes centre stage. Perfect for those end-of-the-day moods when the regrets starts to resurface and you need to feel that you’ve accomplished something and want to listen to something loud and a little aggressive.
Then there’s “Cousin in the Bronx”, where we find the lyrics that claim the honour of giving the album its title. To be honest, it’s no jewel in their crown. The drum roll-like opening beat gives way to deep bass guitar strums, which merge into heavy electric guitar riffs. Now that’s all swell, but meanwhile the title lyrics are repeated until they sound like they belong in a campfire sing-along. If only the echoing background “oohs” could make up for what can only be described as an annoying drone.
The only absolute must-hear songs of the album are “On the Run” and “Heard It Break”, both extremely foot-tapping, due to the extra electronic twinkle in the former and the tasteful zest of steel drums in the latter.
While there are no guarantees that fans will be satisfied with their comeback—although they’d have good reason to be—we must nod our posh little heads at the new arrivals to Kaiser Chiefs’ collection of retro tracks. They took all the best aspects of their old guitar and drum hits and infused some new, if at times odd, electro-pop energy that is sure to wear out replay buttons everywhere.