Music To Eat Lunch To – The Kaiser Chiefs – Employment

Label: B-Unique
Released: 7 March 2005
Tracks: 12
Rating: 7

Staying on the theme of Brit-rock, this week’s music review is of England’s Kaiser Chiefs, a band who are not currently charting in Canada but are booming in the United Kingdom. I think that warrants a good look at the band and their music.

This is a band from Leeds in northern England, one of the many northern UK success stories in the last few years. They’ve been playing for years under a different name, but almost immediately after changing to the Kaiser Chiefs the money and tour offers have been rolling in. Hailed as an Indie rock and sometimes New Wave band, the Kaiser Chiefs have made good use of their instruments and aren’t above using synthesized sounds or even cowbells for a certain depth and distinction. Their sound isn’t easily paralleled; the deep, powerful voice of frontman Ricky Wilson is held up with a low and almost laid-back rhythm from the band. The resulting album is somewhat hit and miss, with a handful of fantastic tunes and just as many that are rather unimpressive.

What have really struck a chord with listeners throughout Europe are the chart songs titled, “Oh My God” and “I Predict a Riot.” Wilson’s energetic stage presence and enthusiastic vocals have really been the selling point of this band. Fortunately, these traits manage to get through on the album.

All the songs are enjoyable on some level, but the energy of the album isn’t properly paced. Some tracks come out sounding like filler material for singles. My personal favourite is “Modern Way”:

Take a lesson
From the ones who have been there
My brain is not damaged
But in need of some repair:

And it’s the only way
Of getting out of here
Yes it’s the only way
We’re getting out of here:

This is the modern way
Faking it every day
Taking ’em as they come
We’re not the only ones
Is that what we used to say
This is the modern way:

It is my favourite, not only for the sound, but also for the few lyrics that make syntactic sense. This is one of the problems with the album Employment. It is not as strong lyrically as albums by other bands like NOFX or the Arctic Monkeys. Wilson has a great, belting voice, perfect for getting a message across, any kind of message, but he doesn’t seem to have anything substantial to say. Case in point, “I Predict a Riot”:

Watching the people get lairy
Is not very pretty I tell thee
Walking through town is quite scary
And not very sensible either :
La-ah-ah, la la lalala la
Ah-ah-ah, la la lalala la
I predict a riot, I predict a riot
I predict a riot, I predict a riot

Aside from the lack of lyrical prowess, Employment also suffers because of the filler songs, those in between the chart singles that are low in energy and lacking in anything more than at least half a dozen repetitions of “na na na na na.” The whole effect of the album is so manic that it’s difficult to make a real judgement. It’s a real shame that it feels like a rush job, a badly woven product with great potential but a couple of holes.

Despite the bad bits, I do encourage any interested parties to pick up the compact disk (CD), if only to enjoy the well-crafted tracks, which rival anything topping the charts in Canada at the moment. The album is actually available in Canada ($9.99 at Amazon.ca) and is worth the money, in my opinion. If you enjoy Franz Ferdinand or the Killers, this is definitely the band for you.

Here’s hoping the next release is a consistent one!

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