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Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads

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Are you ready for some Britpop? Off With Their Heads, the new release by Kaiser Chiefs, is not only more of the band’s rocking interpretation of this brand of pop, but another collection of clever playfulness that combines contemporary fun with echoes of past sounds. In other words, the English outfit’s understanding of all the music that has come before proves for a highly respectable album and shades of classic rock, 90s Britpop, and even R&B all come through at different times.

When the Kaiser Chiefs came onto the scene in 2005, they were immediately lumped in with like-minded British bands, Bloc Party, Kasbabian and the already-established Franz Ferdinand. These bands have all went completely different ways: Bloc Party decided to go more punk and post-punk, Kasabian was electronic to begin with and now they have moved onto psychedelics, and Franz Ferdinand is still working on their third album. However, The Kaiser Chiefs stuck to their guns and are still releasing rock inspired pop and continue being true to their fanbase.

The album opens with “Spanish Metal” and features some heavier than expected guitar work mixed with the expected harmonies from Ricky Wilson and the rest of the band. The song is short, punchy, and overall a good indicator for the rest of the album. “Never Miss A Beat” is the first single and it’s a standout, featuring some hilarious lyrics about skipping school and knowing nothing. It’s beauty is in it’s lyrical simplicity. The song deals with the kids on the street and how they never miss a beat. Ladies and gentlemen, good pop songs can be this simple. With a gentle build up in percussion, the song eventually explodes during the chorus and fans listening get a chance for a little head nod action.

“You Want History” starts out as a Chemical Brothers song and somehow turns into a Kaiser Chiefs track along the way. The song relies heavily on the keyboard and distortion , which is then mixed with rhyming lyrics. This one is a rocker. Even though it does seem to restart with about a minute left, it slowly builds and builds on the keyboard and percussion, bringing you something that could rival today’s hard rock bands.

“Good Days Bad Days” is one of the happiest sounding songs on the album. The lyrics of course deal with the accessible topic of good days and bad days.  With a repetitive tone sound, a strong bass line, and vocal harmonies to boot, this song has a lot going on. Then, at about two minutes in, there is a record break. The song stops, comes back, but with a fury. It’s glorious and with so much going on here, it’s hard to not enjoy this track.

It would be remiss to not mention the Robert Palmer reference with “Addicted to Drugs”. The song features some nonsensical percussion (Do I hear a cowbell?) which was a trademark of a lot of early Robert Palmer music. But when the lyrics break into, “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to drugs”, you can’t help but wait for the music video of its former self. Musically, the song relies on percussion for the most part. Yet there’s some electronic muddle towards the end that’s sure to raise some eyebrows.

The rest of the album is very strong, featuring a lot of cameos from other British music-makers, but where the Kaiser Chiefs are going and what they have become is and should be the focus. The band has clearly established themselves. With two strong albums already, one would assume there to be a drop off, but there has been none. The band is still staying close to their pop roots but on here, we hear more of the harder rock sound that popped up on their debut a few years ago.

While remarkably short, Off With Their Heads is a strong album, suited to both their fanbase and strangers to the band. It only gets better and better after repeated listens, thanks to the rich, multi-layered songwriting and composition. As time persists, however, new favorites will be discovered. If they can keep up this kind of output, in both terms of quantity and quality, get ready to have your kids know about ’em in 20 years. They are officially around to stay.

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