Education, Education, Education & War

Kaiser Chiefs

ATO, 2014

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/15/2014

Kaiser Chiefs is one of those bands that seem to have never lived up to their debut, no matter what they do. Fans just can’t get over how good Employment was and how everything since has been a repetitive, somewhat pale retread of that sound.

Education… follows in a similar musical vein, but has enough of an arena meets bar rock vibe and topical vibes to elevate it as one of the group’s better albums. Perhaps sensing the group was in a bit of a funk – not lessened by the departure of drummer Nick Hodgson – singer Ricky Wilson pulled an Adam Levine and joined the cast of the British version of The Voice.

It’s a shrewd marketing move, but one that renders the sentiments of this record a bit hollow, since the lyrics vaguely concern blue-collar working man concerns of the type that men gripe about every night in bars and every day in factory break rooms, a sort of harmless anti-conservative commentary. It would seem a little more real coming from Oasis (a band Kaiser Chiefs tries to sound like) than from a talent show judge, so here’s hoping Wilson doesn’t lose his credibility while promoting an album that demands it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, though, the album is split. Part of it has invigorating tunes like the stomping “Misery Company,” a Brit-rock anthem of the highest order complete with maniacal laughter and a necessary closing guitar solo, the anthemic “The Factory Gates” and the solid “Coming Home.” A strong Oasis vein runs through the album, with hints of latter-day Clash and modern indie rock, sounding exactly the way an album like this ought to.

The other part mines the same sound to lesser results, such as “Meanwhile Up In Heaven” and “One More Last Song,” which slow the momentum in the middle of the album until the singalong “My Life” (another guitar solo!) revives things, briefly. The advance single “Bows & Arrows” is a blatant attempt at a singalong anthem with Wilson’s shouted vocals and the repeated “We the people / Created equal” line, but its manipulation falls flat.

Better is the large sound and lyrical satire of “Cannons,” a quirky anti-war piece written from the point of view of a soldier with some great lines like (“They treat us like we’re extras in a war film," "We’re gonna need a lot more cannons if we’re gonna be home by Christmas" and "Politicians and children first”) that then closes with a spoken word poem repeating the sentiments of the album.

The record is both defiant and commercial, with the somewhat simple sentiments and arena-ready sound seeming like ploys to court a large audience who will agree that war is bad and the 1% are too wealthy and we are all equal. But the pumped-up Britpop sound of the record is a good one and at least leaves the listener feeling hopeful, if unsure about what to do next.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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