Kaiser Chiefs - Off with Their Heads
Record Label: Universal Motown
Release Date: October 28, 2008
With two popular albums behind them, Kaiser Chiefs have established a signature sound and carved out a definite niche for themselves in the music industry. On both 2005’s Employment and last year’s Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the Chiefs presented their unmistakable blend of Britpop, post-punk, and New Wave with seemingly boundless energy. After the surprise breakthrough of “I Predict a Riot,” they capitalized on the success with the release of the (love it or hate it) undeniably infectious “Ruby” as the first single from Yours Truly, Angry Mob, and were rewarded with a worldwide smash hit along with a Number One single in the UK.
If the band is lacking anything, it’s subtlety, as their albums are chock full of flamboyant, over-the-top anthems played with full force. With their latest album, Off With Their Heads, the third installment in their discography, Kaiser Chiefs are not showing that they’ve learned any new tricks. In fact, it’s actually even more caffeinated than their first two albums, with nary a demure moment at all among the first ten tracks, save for perhaps “Tomato in the Rain.”
The album starts with the short, punchy “Spanish Metal,” the opening of which features a high-pitched organ part that sounds, somewhat annoyingly, like the theme from the original Mission: Impossible series. The first single, “Never Miss a Beat,” follows with its tongue-in-cheek hook, “It’s cool to know nothing.” It’s a little intriguing to hear this from a British band, since the anti-intellectual trend the song is satirizing is definitely having an impact on this side of the Atlantic as well, with intelligent, educated people being referred to as “elite liberals” and “not part of the real America,” while moose-hunting hockey moms and Presidents who consistently use the pronunciation “nucular” are “folks you’d like to have a beer with.”
“Like It Too Much” is one of the more memorable tracks on the album with it’s steady march beat on the verses and great use of melody in the chorus: “You are descended from animals and you are constructed of chemicals.” Lyrics like that could get them banned in Alaska. “You Want History” and “Can’t Say What I Mean” are representative of the typical catchy, light-hearted fare we’ve come to expect from the band, but honestly, after a few listens it’s easy to get desensitized to it, since much of the record bounces along at the same ebullient pace.
At the midway point, we’re hit with two standouts in “Good Days Bad Days,” a nervy keyboard-pop anthem for the underdog, and “Tomato in the Rain,” a tune in the style of many 1960's British bands and also the most understated track on the album, with the exception of the closer. "Half the Truth" has the post-punk adrenaline of Bloc Party's "Helicopter," setting up for the somewhat mellower jangle of "Always Happens Like That." The fuzzy rocker "Addicted to Drugs" is a slight misstep, coming a little too-close-for-comfort to Robert Palmer territory with the line "You might as well face it, you're addicted to drugs." Something tells me they could have done better than that.
Redemption comes immediately, though, with the uncharacteristically laid-back finale, "Remember You're a Girl." It almost sounds out of place on the album, but it's no surprise they've included it: It's a beautiful melody and probably amounts to the best overall song on the set. When the album is over, if you're not either amused or annoyed by all the cheery exuberance, you may need to consider lowering your dosage of Valium. While there are no songs with the immediacy of "Ruby," this album will be a surefire hit with fans of the lighter side of their first two records. It's unlikely to win over any of the naysayers, though, but I'm pretty sure the Kaiser Chiefs really couldn't care less.