Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob
US Release: March 27, 2007
Following the blow-up of the now canceled indie hit machine The OC, the Kaiser Chiefs, along with several other brit-pop bands such as British Sea Power, Kasabian, the Libertines and Hard-Fi, took center stage among the growing and now incredibly popular hipster scene with their debut Employment. Almost exactly two years later the Chiefs return with their sophomore effort, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, which is largely just another good addition to the genre that may have passed its prime with the fading of the OC sun. This doesn't mean that Kaiser Chiefs will stop though; if anything, YTAM is a statement that the Kaiser Chiefs have a consistent, if ultimately forgettable, career ahead of them in the hipster scene.
The album opens with the lively jaunt-single "Ruby," which reached #1 on the UK Billboard charts, but will probably fail to come close over here in the states. The song is a pleasant enough rock track about a maddening girl driving the singer of the Chiefs crazy. The most distinctive facet of "Ruby" is the singer voice, which resembles a slightly weaker version of Morrissey. Their infectious brand of brit-pop and Morrissey-like delivery fit well together, and give them something to hold over the other generic Brit-pop bands. The next track is one of the two narrative-style tracks on the cd, telling a story that makes it seem like YTAM might be a concept album; its not, but "Angry Mob," starts with a more brit-rock sound, finishing in a gang chorus stating that the Chiefs are an "angry mob" that "can be easily swayed." The lyrics are witty, if often forgettable, but The Kaiser Chiefs get across their ideas with their lyrics. After "Angry Mob," "Heat Dies Down' is almost "Paint it Black" style tune that is the strongest on the album; "Heat Dies Down" is the most hooky, witty, and musically impressive song on the album. It's single-worthy, and also ready to be played live.
After "Heat Dies Down," however, we see that the Kaiser Chiefs could have probably cut the number of tracks on Yours Truly down to about 11. "highroyds," "Thank You Very Much," and "I Can Do it Without You" are all poppy and in the vein of most of the scene, and this is a problem. These three do nothing to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack; and although any of them could've found their way onto an OC Mix, now that the OC is gone they have really nowhere to get out of the middle of the album. If KC had taken out one of them, it would have made the middle of the album a little less generic.
"Love's Not a Competition (But I'm Winning" is however very original, with acoustics and electronics swimming over the again Morrissey-like voice, making the track a very strong acoustic song. In contrast, the other toned down song, "Boxing Champ," is an ultimately pointless song that takes too much of a deviation from the rest of the cd. While the rest of the cd seems to wander in between The Smiths hooks, The Clash guitars, Alkaline Trio 80s punk, and Belle and Sebastian inde-goodness, "Boxing Champ" is a track that is too odd in the place of the cd. Kaiser Chiefs are better off experimenting with different sounds within their own sound, not completely abandoning it and going with a stripped piano jaunt.
The last two tracks of the cd finish the cd in very interesting fashion; "Try Your Best" is a slow down from traditional Brit-Pop that eventually speeds up and finishes epically. It could definitely have been substituted for the albums closer, however it fits very well where it is. "Retirement" accentuates two very good things about Angry Mob, the guitar work and the witty lyricism the Chiefs bring to the table. "Retirement is a speedy track about wanting just to invent something that nets you a lot of money and going to relax; indeed, the Chiefs use a clever humorous wit that the listener will surely enjoy from the mosh of dead-pan emo-pop releases. the song, as well as "Try Your Best" also feature wonderful guitar solos that accentuate the very well done musicianship on the record; the Kaiser Chiefs guitarists should be proud, for their instruments perform the best on YTAM. The problem is noticing the musicianship; the production of the album is minimal and too often resigns the guitars to crunching too loudly and the keyboards taking too much of a backseat. The production is ok, it just doesn't do the talent of The Chiefs justice.
Ultimately, the Kaiser Chiefs sophomore album does not submit to the slump that comes with the second release, however they do nothing to make the release completely noticeable. If they had persisted with the idea of an "Angry Mob" album throughout, it might have held more weight than just a choppy collection of songs that are good Brit-pop songs, but will not likely stand out from any of the other releases that will appear over the course of this and the next year.
Oh those Brits. It's amazing how each band from the UK has brilliant originality and crazy talent, yet the majority end up sounding the same in their finished products. Maybe it's the water flowing from their end of "the pond." At least it's catchy, which usually equals popularity, which magically transforms into sales.