To bear the name Kaiser you just can’t be anybody. The original kaisers were the emperors of the old Holy Roman Empire. It was a line which lasted almost a thousand years before being modernised into the Austrian and German empires of the 19th century. It was lost in two World Wars before the baton was found in the early seventies by the great German footballer Franz Beckenbauer. But since then nothing, not even Kevin Spacey, has come close to carrying the name with pride.
Step forward Leeds quintet the Kaiser Chiefs who, along with Bloc Party, are heavily tipped to do a ‘Franz’ this year. Like the Londoners and Glaswegians, the Kaisers are heroes in their local music scene.
Even Leeds United football team have even been playing the Kaisers at home games to rouse its supporters. But it’s not just the beleaguered Leeds fan who may find Oh My God or I Predict A Riot weekly occurrences (quite literally). Up and down the land, the Kaisers have been a daily occurrence in the gluttony of media available to us music lovers.
And Employment is certainly an album for the latter. It pogoes into life with an electro stomp on Everyday I Love You Less and Less, genuinely befitting of a comparison to The Clash.
The first half of Employment is a joy to the ears, steeped in the fine heritage of British music’s strongest modes of modern music – pop, punk and rock. The three mingle gloriously from the insanely catchy anthem I Predict A Riot, the conquering melodies of Modern Way, or the gorgeous Brit pop soaked You Can Have It All.
There is a kookiness to the Kaisers which has lent them to Madness comparisons, but sound-wise they couldn’t be further away from Suggs and company if they tried. It’s more like early Pulp but punked up and quite happy to experiment. Hence the ludicrously brilliant Na Na Na Na Na, an oddball smash up which makes even Gary Glitter singing nursery rhymes look normal.
The Britpop sound is further refined by having a Blur producer and, like so many bands of the era, homing in on existence in a working-class northern life. Indeed it’s clear that Leeds was a double edged sword for the Kaisers, and their fantastically charismatic singer Ricky Wilson, who dotes on many a failed relationship.
Many have gone as far to liken Wilson’s lyrical deployment to that of Morrissey. That’s a bit overboard, but Wilson does stake his credentials with Mozza-esque observations such as: “Well it’s time honoured tradition to get enough nutrition / stay alive until you die and that is the end of you / and I pity the fools who don’t recognise the rules” (Time Honoured Tradition).
While the second portion of the record is wayward in a maze of effects, lacking in flow, and great song-after-great song appeal is something you only experience early on in the album, this is a quite remarkable and refreshing debut.
And where many of the young kaisers notoriously needed time and experience to assert their rule and influence, these ones could yet prove to be the exception.