One of the more bizarre sights of recent years was that of Kaiser Chiefs opening the US leg of Live 8. Still relatively unknown over here at that point, heaven alone knows what the Americans thought of a high-jumping Ricky Wilson singing “it’s not very pretty I tell thee”.
Since then, much has changed of course. I Predict A Riot and Oh My God have officially passed into ‘modern indie classic’ status, they’re far more well known over the Atlantic than many of their contemporaries, and even Girls Aloud and Lily Allen have started covering them.
With success comes the inevitable backlash though, and at some point last year, people became a bit sniffy about Kaiser Chiefs. Fellow Yorkshire tykes Arctic Monkeys dubbed them “a bit annoying”, and they appeared to be adopted by a rather beery group of lads – ironically enough, the very same type of people so skilfully satirised in I Predict A Riot.
Yours Truly Angry Mob will inevitably displease those who remain immune to their charms – it’s full of the same shiny pop tunes, with rather catchy choruses and Wilson’s quirky lyrics. And if the fact that it’s rather like their first one rankles, bear in mind that this means it’s not like Razorlight or The Killers‘ second effort.
Comeback single Ruby is the Kaisers at their best – a big anthem, with a chorus that could fill a football stadium, and lyrics that. although slightly nonsensical, have a air of existential sadness (and I bet that’s not a sentence you thought you’d ever read in a Kaiser Chiefs review). Lines such as “there is nothing I need, except the function to breath, but I’m not really fussed” hint at a mood of disillusionment and disappointment that runs throughout the album.
The (near) title track The Angry Mob is similarly terrific, a swipe at the ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ fratenity culminating in a chant of “we are the angry mob, we read the papers everyday” that you can imagine being just about everywhere this summer. Heat Dies Down already feels like a future single, the infectious chorus offset by the song’s protagonist waiting with glee for the demise of his relationship (“I doubt I could spend 20 years spending time at her, talking to that mother”).
The disillusionment mentioned earlier is evident in several tracks, and it’s the music industry that bears the brunt of the band’s ire. While songs by successful bands about how crap it is to be a successful band may be tiresome, tracks such as Thank You Very Much paint the daily grind of the media treadmill vividly. The closing track, Retirement, even sees Wilson fantasising about inventing some kind of gadget so he can retire and “get the man off my back”.
In a similar way that debut album Employment felt like ‘the singles and some other less memorable tracks’, there’s a fair amount of filler on Angry Mob as well. Highroyds is basically a lyrical sequel to I Predict A Riot, a portrait of a tread around the streets of Leeds complete with underage girls standing outside nightclubs in the snow. It doesn’t have the charm of I Predict A Riot though, with a tune that’s not half as memorable. Several songs in the second half of the album, such as Learnt My Lesson Well and Everything Is Average Nowadays have a rather ‘phoned-in’ feel about them, while the lumpen My Kind Of Guy just ends up being plain depressing.
Wilson’s lyrics too, sometimes verge on the cringeworthy. Learnt My Lesson Well berates us that “life could be worse, you could be a nurse”, while Retirement has the awesomely clumsy couplet of “there are many things that I would be proud of, if I’d only invented them such as the wheel”.
Pleasingly though, there are moments of a change of direction on Angry Mob – notably the acoustic lament of Boxing Champ and the rather lovely I Can Do It Without You, which prove that the (admittedly fair) lampoon of them as the band who can only write a chorus with “wooaaaahhhh” in it could well be wrong.
Like its predecessor, the Kaisers’ second album is patchy, but does have moments of brilliance. It will sell an absolute shedload, and quite possibly turn them into one of the biggest bands in the country. They may not have the art-school charm of Franz Ferdinand or the effortless brilliance of Arctic Monkeys, but their second album should certainly confirm them as the people’s choice.