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The hallmark of a good band is the ability to maintain identity through passing changes in things like musical direction, personnel, and commercial and critical highs and lows.
U.K. rockers Kaiser Chiefs, much like their English contemporaries Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys, were and still are bright-faced soccer hooligans from the English suburbs creating sonic rock tunes with the occasional inclusion of some electronic trappings and indie-rock speed in commercially un-rock friendly times. They have never repeated the same album (although some may see otherwise) and their latest release, Start The Revolution Without Me, follows on the trend of infectious and boisterous rockers that genre hop accordingly.
Start The Revolution will be familiar to some, as many of the tracks are paired down from its official and lengthier U.K, release, last summer’s The Future Is Medieval. For those unaware, the Kaisers, who have seen dwindling sales in their native country since their debut release, released 20 tracks online without any notice, allowing fans to concoct their favorite 10 tracks into an album. It’s a bold move, and one that may not have fully worked as they released a proper 13-track version of Future mere weeks later.
With Start The Revolution Without Me, the group took the best from those 20 tracks and created a release for America that feels far more like an album than its original format. There are a few new tunes made specifically for its U.S. release, with lead single “On The Run” galloping out of the gates
As always, their songs feel strictly European, borrowing from the finest in European exports, ranging from Kraut Rock electronica (“Heard It Break”) to the harpsichord-laden, Ray Davies-esque feel of “When All Is Quiet.” The Kaiser Chiefs jump sounds like good boys to some rather thumping results while still maintaining their hybrid Brit rock and pop sensibilities. “Cousin In The Bronx,” which bares the album’s title origins, runs through the streets screaming mentions of The Clash and with feelings of anxiety while “Child Of The Jago”
The album’s opener shows a heavy sense of familiarity within the band’s lengthy history, as “Little Shocks” echoes their debut release, 2005’s Employment, with its tinkering background noise and ’80s Euro tendencies. Lead singer Ricky Wilson provides another tumultuous vocal performance, sounding part Morrissey and part Joe Strummer, painting the terrace with pros and annunciation. Keyboardist Nick “Peanut” Baines lets his skills twinkle on tracks like “Man On Mars,” where they dazzle with precision. It’s on said song that drummer Nick Hodgson gets the chance to stand out, singing lead while still giving his grandiose drumming mix that’s part punk brutality and sizzling ’70s rock bombardment.
Of course, not every song is prime Grade A meat, as tracks like “Starts Qith Nothing” and “Can’t Mind My Own” are laced with repetition that never lift off lyrically and only mildly musically. They aren’t filler by any means, but they don’t stand out amongst the bulk of the tunes and feel just throwaway. Still, the result is an album that mimics exactly what broke the band out into mainstream culture to begin with. Part wavering British wryness and slick American radio rock tensions, Kaiser Chiefs have created an excellent return to form that resembles the rock and roll equivalent of male pattern baldness, covering up the rough spots with youthful tones that made them who they were and still are.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (excellent)