Young and In the Way
It seems like just yesterday that the Leeds quintet Kaiser Chiefs were part of a buzzing pop/rocking dance revolution with tracks like “I Predict a Riot.” Since that stuff exploded in 2005, it sorta was yesterday for all intents and purposes. But the band’s fifth studio album, Start the Revolution Without Me, feels like a grasp at past and quickly fading glory.
Five albums in seven years is kind of impressive; bigger bands with longer histories never reached that pace. Yet for all the credit they earned, Kaiser Chiefs give it right back in this moment by sounding flat-out tired. Baggy funk and jagged, artful New Wave were the gears that first drove them and their ilk, and the monkey wrench thrown in here is that you can tell they’re trying to hit similar notes—trying to make a Kaiser Chiefs record.
Manchester’s influence is heard in the crunchy instrumentation of songs like “Man on Mars” and “Child of Jago,” with special emphasis on Andrew White’s guitar and the keyboard fills of Nick Baines. The worst parts of the genre also manifest in the defeatist “Starts with Nothing” and the directionless “Cousin in the Bronx,” Ricky Wilson singing nonsense like the album title (as that titular cousin’s dialogue) for no discernible reason.
Theatrics and playfulness are occasional saving graces on Start the Revolution Without Me. “Things Change,” the peppy garage rock of “Kinda Girl You Are,” and Wilson’s gem of a concept in “Heard it Break” (“It feels like I broke my heart again / But it’s just a sprain”) are rather gratifying. That latter track, tied in with “Problem Solved,” makes for a stretch of spastic lyricism not heard since Kaiser Chiefs’ string of hits from Employment.
Still, there’s simply too much British indie nonsense here to make Start the Revolution Without Me stand out from any crowd. From ADHD tracks that suggest three songs in one (“On the Run”) to a host of vanilla work (like “Can’t Mind My Own Business”) suggesting not much at all, Kaiser Chiefs suddenly feel like they’ve snuck up on their own expiration date.