Album Reviews

Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval

(Fiction) UK release date: 27 June 2011

Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval The music industry might well be in a state of paralysis when it comes to releasing records, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the interest isn’t there. Whilst the money’s scarce and while most acts sink or swim on the basis of their first album, on the other side of the coin we’re prompted with more music blogs than ever before, high ticket sales, a renewed interest in merchandise, &C.

Any old cynic would jibe that Kaiser Chiefs‘ unique means of releasing a record – they offered “fans” the chance to select their own track listings and buy their own version of the album two weeks ahead of release date – isn’t a savvy response to the internet pirates, that the actual purpose of the scheme (fans pay for 20 tracks, create their own tracklist, most popular songs make up the fully-released record) is a desperate attempt to renew interest in a band who sound more dated than a BNP conference speech.

The songs making up The Future Is Medieval can hardly be picked apart from older numbers in the group’s back catalogue; the premise of choosing which tracks feature might sound interesting and interactive but it’s a façade, a blocking device to prevent people from acknowledging the lack of quality in the songs themselves. Not even Radiohead could get away with this. The most important strength of an album, the asset that makes it a more enjoyable experience than what a pick ‘n’ choose MP3 generation opt for, is its coherence, its natural flow. Fans are choosing their favourite songs and the album is cobbled together at the time of asking – any chance of getting the KaiserChiefs’ first coherent, well-structured album is thrown right into the fire.

It begins well, however. Little Shocks’ short, sharp bursts of guitar offer something a little different. But the majority of what follows is drawn-out and lacking in purpose. Choruses sound forced, particularly on Dead Or In Serious Trouble and Long Way From Celebrating. Occasional experimental dabbling occurs during Man On Mars’ psych-rock, sedated feel and Starts With Nothing’s bold attempt at pop music – more Pet Shop Boys than circa-2005’s Britpop rejuvenation. But at 13 tracks long and with no centrepiece, no adjoining theme, no recurring elements, it is a half-arsed throwing together of songs, joining arms to provide a 50-minute-long spell of drudgery.

Ricky Wilson and co. might have sensed an opportunity, and in some quarters at the very least the fan-choice scheme raised eyebrows and a scrupulous debate between converts and cynics. But here’s the core problem. Observing the band’s 2011 Glastonbury set, you notice that for each new song played within the set, there is barely a tap of thefeet. This might not seem unusual for a record barely at walking stage but the album has been released in such a way that the vast majority of potential listeners don’t know what’s going on and aren’t even aware of a new album being shelved in the shops. Choosing a tracklist is the kind of passionate experience bands can end up splitting up over. Kaiser Chiefs have made the process into some sort of poll, resembling a social networking group rather than a record company meeting. Props for trying something different, but this doesn’t boost the purpose of an album; it ends up harming it.

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More on Kaiser Chiefs
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Kaiser Chiefs – Stay Together
Kaiser Chiefs – Education, Education, Education & War
Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval
Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads