Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kaiser Chiefs, "Off With Their Heads" (Album Review)

Kaiser Chiefs is a 5 person indie band from England that sounds to me like Cake, The Beatles, The Killers and Voxtrot in a blender. Their latest album "Off With Their Heads" was released last year in October and here's what I've got to say about that:

The album starts off with "Spanish Metal" a catchy song with Beatle-esque vocal harmonies, but unfortunately I can't really understand more than a word or two of the lyrics at a time so I have no idea what it's about. It's pretty straight forward until some fancy guitar flourishes at the end, but it's a great introduction to the overall sound of the album.

The next song, "Never Miss a Beat," is one of my favorite and features the snarky type of sarcastic lyrics that made me love the Kaiser Chiefs' previous album "Yours Truly, the Angry Mob." It's mocking stupidity and the idea that "it's cool to know nothing." The sound is more aggressive than "Spanish Metal" and uses fewer harmonies. You can watch the music video here (embedding is disabled or I'd post it here).

"I Like it Too Much" is, as I said, my favorite song on this album. It starts out with a simple driving bass/drum line that the singer emphasizes by the way he sings. Towards the chorus, the melody becomes more flowing and the guitar takes over. It's the most beautiful song they've made, IMO. The song is about addiction, human nature and self-denial. I posted the video before, so check it out if you missed it.

"You Want History" is about the mystery of a partner's personal history. It has a similar tempo to "I Like It Too Much" with an extremely effected guitar line reeling over it. A great song that drives the album forwards and makes me want to shake around to the beat.

"Can't Say What I Mean" is another one of my favorites, starting out with the great line: "Nothing's so important that it can't be shortened to fit on a badge." The entire song, as you might guess, is about a guy who finds himself incapable of saying what he means and wishes that he was a pithy, sound-bite delivering suave speaker. As a person who also finds the words to say hard to find lots of times (surprised?), I totally relate. Add to that the catchiness of this song and the fierce drumming and you've got a winner.

I really like it when musicians take words from our common cultural heritage and re-frame them. Like when Panic! At the Disco referenced the Sound of Music song, "My Favorite Things," for "Build God, Then We'll Talk" and ended up with: "Raindrops on roses and girls in white dresses/ It's sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses/ At the shade of the sheets and before all the stains/ And a few more of your least favorite things." In their next song, "Good Days, Bad Days," Kaiser Chiefs rewords the common saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," changing it to: "Sticks and stones and animal bones/ Can't stop me from having a good day or a bad day." Another super catchy tune, this one also makes me want to get moving. The basic message is that nothing will change the fact that we all have good days and bad days. Kinda obvious but kudos to them for making it sound so spiffy.

"Tomato in the Rain" kind of fails as far as lyrics are concerned. I don't get the metaphors they use ("like a tomato in the rain I got my feeling again) and the chorus seems to have nothing to do with the verses. On the other hand, it's a lovely, lyrical song and if you ignore the words, it sounds great.

"Half the Truth" uses the Kaiser Chiefs favorite from the last album: really monotonous vocals for the verses mixed with slightly more varied vocals and harmony in the choruses. It's a very Kaiser Chiefs kind of sound and I like it for that, but since it is also so much like songs from the last album, I'm not all that impressed. The song is about communication (and otherwise) breakdown in a relationship: "I will not life to you/ but I definitely only give you half the truth."

"Always Happens Like That" describes the frustration experienced when given mixed messages by society: "You can do what you like/ but you can't do that/ You can say what you like/ But you can't say that/ You can go anywhere/ But you can't go there." It also refuses to accept these limitations, describing breaking into a public pool and other activities. The vocals, guitar, bass and drums are all quite simple, but perfect and the sound changes slightly from one section of the song to the next, keeping it interesting.

"Addicted to Drugs" is one of the two songs that really caught my ear during my first listen to this album. It's a weird song about a couple that has nothing in common but their drug problem so they decide to get married. The sound is one of the more fresh sounding on the album and the chorus for some reason just cracks me up: "You might as well face it you're addicted to drugs/ You might as well face it you're addicted {repeat}." No reason for that to be really funny but it cracks me, maybe because it's implied that one of the druggie couple is trying to convince the other that they're addicted while avoiding blame themselves? Anyway, it's catchy shit. You can take a listen here.

"Remember You're a Girl" is the slowest, dreamiest song on the album and sounds the most like a Beatles song. It ends the album on a soothing note and acts as a goodbye kiss and final encouragement to be unique as "interesting people will always run the world."

Overall I liked this album even more than their previous and would definitely recommend you listen to it.

Related posts:
I Like It Too Much
Voxtrot: Music Review
Flobots "Fights With Tools" (Album Review)

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