Review Summary: Yours Truly, Angry Mob is nothing more than a lazy attempt to create an album of stadium-sized anthems
Indulge me for a minute.
Go take a CD from your collection; any CD, it doesn’t matter. Open the booklet and, browsing the lyrics, try and find one song where a particular phrase is repeated four or more times in quick succession, excepting fan-baiting extended codas for obvious reasons. I’d be surprised if more than a couple of attempts actually turned up positive results because, as I’ve come to believe, it’s one of the unwritten rules of popular songwriting that you at least
make an effort to vary lyrics and melodic themes in the interests of, well, justifying the listener’s continued attention.
Imagine my bewilderment, then, at the huge success of the Kaiser Chiefs’ 2005 single ‘Oh My God’, which boasts an exclamation of a chorus line repeated four times (four being the magic number of western music) without rhythmic, melodic or lyrical variation. It's the sonic equivalent of being beaten in the face with a mallet: it's unnecessary, it's unpleasant, and all you’re left with at the end is the prospect of more beatings to come. Of course this approach isn’t all bad; the single’s follow-up ‘I Predict a Riot’ was one of the year’s best singles precisely because the vocal pattern rises and falls, and is melodically strong to begin with. Across four singles, it wears remarkably thin.
Unfortunately, this magical rule of four is just as prevalent second time round. Yours Truly, Angry Mob
is once again littered with would-be anthems, perfect for both the festival crowds and the pub-crawl contingent and will invite deserved comparisons with post-’96 Oasis. The album is once again produced by Stephen Street, best known for his work with The Smiths and Morrissey, but preferred by the Kaisers for his hands-on approach to Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish
, records upon which much of Employment
was styled. Yours Truly, Angry Mob
can definitely be seen as that album’s successor, boasting many of the essential mod-ish and art rock elements which gave Employment
its distinctive sound, but the guitars are noticeably beefier - a nod, perhaps, to the furiously indulgent Be Here Now
Taking influence from practically every great British artist of the past forty years, from The Beatles and The Kinks through The Jam, The Smiths, Pulp, Oasis and, of course, Blur, the Kaiser Chiefs’ pedigree is second to none. One would expect, given such stellar influences, that the songwriting would be studied. Err, no. As noted, the Kaisers time and time again fall back on lazy practices such as the “mallet in face” technique described above - the rule is four is invoked on three separate tracks, twice during lead single ‘Ruby’ alone, and just as many squeak by on technicalities. The lyrics are generally poor, or rather, much less clever than they’re intended to be. ‘Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning)’ is the lowliest example, a sad excuse for a Morrissey-ism, while in condemning easily-led tabloid-reading reactionaries, ‘The Angry Mob’ only serves to underline the distinction between decent satire and stating the flippin’ obvious.
There are some quality melodic moments on the CD: ‘Boxing Champ,’ songwriting drummer Nick Hodgson’s debut lead vocal, sounds like Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Hallelujah’ as interpreted by Roddy Frame, while the aforementioned ‘Love’s Not a Competition’ is an almost-perfect rendering of Knife
-era Aztec Camera. ‘My Kind of Guy’ may sound as if it’s sung by DJ-turned-TV presenter Chris Tarrant, but melodically it’s spot on, referencing The Kinks and Blur with the spirit of the latter’s ‘Charmless Man’ in tow. The disconcerting introduction chords of ‘The Angry Mob’ call to mind Supergrass’ best.
On the other hand, the chorus of ‘Ruby’ is lifted almost entirely from ‘Hey Jude,’ the chorus of ‘Everything Is Average Nowadays’ is an almost exact replica of ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ down to the last syllable (and repeated four times, naturally), while ‘Heat Dies Down’ bears remarkable melodic similarities (albeit sped up) to Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ but has little of the subtlety and dynamic of that track.
I’m reluctant to question the motivations of any band for creating the music they do, especially in the Kaiser Chiefs’ case because they’ve clearly had a lot of fun making this album. However Yours Truly, Angry Mob
is such a sloppily put-together album that it almost seems intentionally bad. Despite some top-quality melodies and a few witty lyrics here and there, Yours Truly, Angry Mob
can’t be seen as anything more than a lazy attempt to create an album of stadium-sized anthems. It caught up with Noel Gallagher on Be Here Now
, but the Kaiser Chiefs are unlikely to suffer the same fate here because, as lazy as these songs are, they’re bound to sound great with 30,000 voices behind them.
Just do me a favour: skip the record and go straight to the gig.