Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs, ‘Education, Education, Education & War’

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In 2012, I reviewed Kaiser Chief’s fourth effort Start The Revolution Without Me (which was an American pressing of the best tracks from the band’s 2011 UK release Future is Medieval), an overall satisfying record but one that left my stream of conscious relatively quickly and only returned on the occasional iPod shuffle. Even at the time it looked like this Leeds-based quintet who stormed their native UK in 2005 with a blistering debut record, had really stalled on creativity. Each release in between then and now felt like partial autopilot save for some solid singles and the random clever album cut but nothing that was really worth a replay.

The 2013 release of their greatest hits, Souvenirs, seemed to declare a past that quickly faded from the band’s view; a sense of misdirection over time that took the cynical and shrieking energy behind their initial releases away producing albums that pretty much mimicked one after the other.

Photo Credit: Danny North
Photo Credit: Danny North

But then there is Education, Education, Education & War, the band’s fifth album and the first since drummer and main lyricist Nick Hodgson left the band. That last bit is important because that could have been a real crippling blow but out of that comes the phoenix of a “new band” and more importantly one of the most politically charged, frustrated records they have done in literally almost a decade.

Opener “The Factory Gates” punches in the way “I Predict a Riot” did all those years ago with a blaring chorus singing about ones’ placement in the labor machine. Already the Leeds band has returned to their social and political rebel rousing indicating hope for what is to come. Singer Ricky Wilson, fresh off a stint as a judge on the UK version of The Voice sounds feisty and grand delivering some impressive vocal work (not like he never did prior to this point).

If it were up to me the sequencing would be different because everything hits at an alarming rate before it rests unexpectedly. “Coming Home” is a buffer between the above mentioned “Factory Gates” and lead single “Misery Company” by slowing the initial sprint and while a great track it could be much later in the album. It is definitely the most peaceful track and other numbers like “Meanwhile Up in Heaven” and the album closer “Roses” are swaying bits of relief from all the angst and driving energy that encompasses the bulk of this swinging for the fence record.

“Misery Company” with its thumping, cackling chorus is another corker adding to their impressive penchant for writing great singles. Songs like this border on maniacal cynicism and delivers all the right moves that encompass their head bashing, feet stomping numbers but it’s in good company with several other tracks. “One More Last Song” and “Ruffians on Parade” crash the gates and never stop running with blasts of raunchy guitar riffs and a rumbling back beat under the watchful eye of some stinging synth chords.

There is a sense of revitalization that the band desperately needed. Anger fuels most of the tracks but they aren’t necessarily angry in nature. “My Life” and “Bows and Arrows” holler at the sky with extreme velocity while “Cannons” hops along, snarls, and beeps with the sense of fun that the band tries to inject into even the most uproarious tracks especially one that mocks the UK political system (the album’s title comes from one of Tony Blair’s famous quotes as Prime Minister). Kaiser Chiefs clearly still have enough fuel left in the engine that seemed to slowly rust away from repetition. Another product of the over-hyped UK music press it’s easy to say that the band’s latest is a quick reminder why they were so talked about upon the release of Employment almost 10 years ago and is hopefully a sign of more reckless and often riot worthy output to come.

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