Kaiser Chiefs are a quintessentially quirky British (and more importantly Yorkshire) band, with arguably the best front man in music in Ricky Wilson: big on personality, irrepressibly good humoured and well *coughs* hot enough. But I must admit that when I first heard the new offering, Parachute, I was not sure about it. Not. Sure. At. All. You see, it’s a bit poppy. My tolerance for pop is limited, and it has to be pretty perfect pop at that. So it was an almighty relief when Hole In My Soul appeared because that, my friends, IS perfect pop, with a fabulously fun video to accompany it to boot. So the jury was out on the new material until the full album landed.
Clearly the Kaiser Chiefs are trying something a bit new and different, a bit more what Miranda’s mother might call “current” and bit less riotous. And there is nothing wrong with artists doing that to push their creativity and remain inventive. But when you’ve had a sound so iconic and so much your own, it’s something of a risk.
The opening title track Stay Together really makes the eyes widen. By ‘eck Ricky lad, it’s a bit blummin Bee Gees! Rather wonderful though – a retro Seventies feel that works well. Other tracks tinker around with various non-Kaiser elements such as an attempt at something approaching rapping and reggae in Good Clean Fun and disco grooves in Press Rewind, where Ricky comes right out and says, “This is pop music.” High Society is the track which stays closest to what you’d hope for from The Chiefs in terms of oddness, the Wilson falsetto getting a workout. Other tracks such as Happen In A Heartbeat and Indoor Firework just pass me by completely and even though the album has got good hooks, there is no denying that it’s simply not Kaiser enough. The golden nugget is somehow lacking.
This album has a similarity to Coldplay’s last offering A Head Full Of Dreams in that it’s moved the band to the centre ground from an early position of artistic individuality. Both bands are hugely successful live acts, and all they really need from a new album is three or four decent new tracks to slot into a set list of classics, in order to sell another tour, and despite any reservations about this album, I will happily pay my coppers to see them live because it won’t stop me being a long term fan. But I feel a tad sorry for Whitey Kaiser, whose guitar is barely noticeable on this offering, when his solo on Misery Company from the last album Education, Education, Education and War was one of its highlights.
It’s interesting that this album, and one from another huge “current” (Miranda’s Mother again) act, One Republic, were both beaten to the top spot in the album charts by an act who have barely attempted to change at all, Green Day. And I’m secretly rather pleased that in the battle of genres, rock beats pop.