Offbeat in Transition
By monetary accounts, Kaiser Chiefs have done it. The band, whose most recent years saw them floundering to the point of extinction, are at the top of the UK charts. Critics are tasked with reviewing their fifth effort in comparison to… what? The fact that frontman Ricky Wilson let himself go for a bit and that their original drummer’s been gone for over a year? Sonically, Education, Education, Education & War is a far cry from their debut masterpiece, Employment. Though it starts out quite promising with opener “The Factory Gates,” which is damn near as catchy as “I Predict A Riot,” by the time “Ruffians on Parade” rolls around some of that oomph is gone.
It could be that high-profile missteps have befallen them or that their message is just so comically explicit as to cheapen its meaning, but the fighting spirit of Kaiser Chiefs seems a bit muddled. New drummer Vijay Mistry is a formidable force behind the kit, though he’s yet to lend his creative powers to co-writing songs. That collaborative process was what made Kaiser Chiefs’ first two albums successful, though it might’ve signaled their downfall. Either way, enough hypothesizing for now. What you should be looking for in Education, Education, Education, & War are the catchier tracks.
Despite the almost completely incongruous spoken word ending of “Cannon,” there’s some solid ire at play as the album’s title is echoed and the expansive chorus kicks into gear. Lead single “Bows & Arrows” stands as perhaps the Chiefs’ most industrial track, a bit of percussion clatter reigned in by synths. It borders on ballad at times, and is perhaps where the earnestness of the band should be headed. Rather than recycling their aggression and disdain for present day Britain, Kaiser Chiefs would do well to see their emotions on slightly less expansive subjects honed into their ever-evolving sound. Perhaps Mistry can help bring about that revolution.