Saturday, April 07, 2007

Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (4.5 / 5)

Kaiser Chiefs formed in 1997, but came to prominence in 2005, one of a handful of bands riding a post-Coldplay new wave revival (Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, etc.) First album Employment was frothy, cheeky fun, chock full of “na na nas,” keyboards, drawing both from the ‘90s Britpop movement, ‘80s new wave and ‘70s California rock. I think it’s fair to say they became British equivalent to the Killers, rising in popularity at about the same time.

On Your Truly, Angry Mob, the band’s second album, the keyboards and cheeky new wave retreat, while the guitars and good rock hooks come forth. Not unlike their cohorts the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs have tried to make a slightly more serious album, although, refreshingly, without the obvious U2 influences, but mostly stays with the winning formula from Employment. Swaggering first single “Ruby,” their biggest hit to date, fires on all thrusters—a big, anthemic track that’s a love song to boot. “The Angry Mob,” the album’s longest song but no means long (4:48) is structurally interesting, with an end section that departs from the rest of the song like a chant (“we are the angry mob, we read the papers everyday, we like who we like we hate who we hate, but we’re all so easily swayed” over and over). Like “Ruby,” the song has a big, rich sound full of guitars and piano, but is fairly mid-tempo.

“Heat Dies Down” picks up the pace, adding percussive hand claps and tambourines to the mix, and works very well lyrically; over-emphasizing certain words for the sake of rhyme makes them more memorable too (“I just can’t face another ar-gu-ment about the rent”). “Highroyds” keeps up the frenetic “riot rock,” with pulsing electric guitars.

My favorite song is the albums slower one, “Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning),” which scores points for a clever title but holds up to multiple listens because of its great melody, atmospheric Keane-like opening, and, in contrast to the other tracks so far, acoustic guitar. I like the overlapping vocals at the end too.

“Thank You Very Much” could be this album’s “I Predict a Riot,” an up-tempo New wavy track with great staccato flourishes, sing-along choruses, and effective repetition. Similar “Everything is Average Nowadays” was chosen for the second single, an up-tempo, melodic piece. Both singles clock in under three minutes.

Mellower “I Can Do It Without You” is also quite good, very melodic, and pulls together a full, rich rock sound very effectively, adding a faint piano to the mix for the last minute. “My Kind of Guy” has a darker sound, like it could accompany a Broadway street fight scene, and goes a little wacko near the end, like an alien spaceship landing while eerie horror-movie like keyboards jump in.

I largely prefer the first half of the album, but latter tracks are still good, albeit a bit strange at times. “Boxing Champ” is a very short (1:33) interesting little track, just a vocal over piano, telling a story about being influenced by a boxing champ. “Learnt My Lesson Well” stomps along with low-range chords that alternate between piano and guitar. Mellow “Try Your Best” comes off like an atmospheric soundtrack to an old western. Closing track “Retirement,” apparently the answer to the whole last album (Employment), also sounds somewhat dark and spooky.

Not a bad track in the bunch and an altogether tighter affair than their first album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob clearly conquers the dreaded “sophomore slump,” securing the Kaiser Chiefs a place among the current British bands to be reckoned with.

Best tracks: Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning), Ruby, I Can Do It Without You, The Angry Mob, Everything is Average Nowadays, Thank You Very Much, Heat Dies Down.

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