sat 06/06/2020

CD: Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education & War | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education & War

CD: Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education & War

New line-up, new experiments - but are Ricky Wilson's crew still Chiefs?

Education, education, education and... what? Kaisers' comeback is an odd one

By the time I reached “Coming Home” - the second track on Kaiser Chiefs’ fifth album, and the band’s "comeback" single - I was predicting not a riot exactly, but certainly a few snide comments below re: my knowledge of the Leeds lads’ back catalogue. While not wholly unpleasant, its drivetime radio-friendly smoothness seemed an odd choice for a band best known for anthemic, stadium-filling indie swagger - particularly as it was always going to be seen as something of a mission statement for their first album without chief songwriter and drummer Nick Hodgson.

But then Education, Education, Education & War is a bit of an odd album; nostalgic for something but not really sure what. It’s an album that, in the centenary of the First World War, is stuffed with the overly-patriotic Britishness of a hundred novelty tea towels; but that was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia and refers to the American Civil War on the closest thing it has to an anthem. It references Tony Blair and the Declaration of Independence, features Bill Nighy sombrely narrating contemporary Great War poetry and inevitably includes a song (“Ruffians on Parade”) that sounds a bit like a lacklustre “I Predict a Riot”. And, towering over it all, the nation’s new reality show sweetheart Ricky Wilson, bellowing part-jingoistic, part-satirical couplets like Kitchener with a Mod haircut.

With its marching drums and militaristic lyrics, the album is at least trying to grapple with some big themes - but the Madness-like “The Factory Gates” seems like more of an anthem for the last recession than this one; and for all its atmospheric trickery and experimentation, the six-minute “Cannons” feels more like a musical episode of Blackadder than a treatise about the futility of conflict. The demonic laughter filling the chorus of “Misery Company” is more chilling than thrilling, and “My Life” is the sound of the world’s most tragic afterparty. From the choruses it’s clear that the bandmates Hodgson left behind can still write hooks - but the chances of them winning over new recruits are slim.

Overleaf: watch the video for "Coming Home"

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