Review Summary: Kaiser Chiefs learning how to play themselves once again.
The Kaiser Chiefs have been slowly fading out of the public's eye in the past five years or so, in a struggle to maintain their commercial success while also making efforts to keep themselves relevant by maturing both lyrically and musically. Their appeal was mainly based on catchy singles and less on full lengths, as they often lacked substance. Off With Their Heads
was pretty much hit and miss and things have only gotten worse with the fairly uninteresting and bloated Future Is Medieval
. The latter even offered fans to create their own track list plus cover, however the efforts were pointless as the material was subpar. Moreover, the band hit another low point when key member Nick Hodgson left, so a resurgence was mandatory. They have hired producer Fraser Smith to help with the songwriting and frontman Ricky Wilson joined The Voice UK coach team, a move that in his own words, ''will sell more records''. So, pummeling another set of anthemic, working class cynicism-soaked tunes, the Chiefs have streamlined their powers into a more engaging record that became Education, Education, Education & War
(with the title borrowed from a Tony Blair speech).
Even though these guys have never been the most consistent act out there, their infectious singles have maintained quite some replay value. Their arena-sized choruses and engaging melodies have always been more appreciated in a live setting and their latest material is no different. Frustrated teenagers will most probably find 'Coming Home', 'One More Last Song' and 'Bows & Arrows' perfect for that big festival, drunk sing-along, since the angsty lyrics don't say much, but they sound cool and easy to remember. Wilson & Co. have always been realistic regarding their strengths and know that even if some tunes are pretty much devoid of any substance and clear meaning, playing them passionately is what matters most. On the other hand, their usual politics-infused rants and social commentary are represented on tracks such as the great opener 'The Factory Gates', which feels like a sequel to their breakthrough hit, 'I Predict A Riot', 'Ruffians On Parade' or the flamboyant 'Cannons', complete with a military news flash piece. They are not bad tracks by any means and are nicely constructed, but tend to collapse under their own weight, especially the latter. Still, there is no turning back now, this is the sound and content the band have built their career on, so they can only push forward in hope to hit their target along the way.
Even at 45 minutes, Education, Education, Education & War
feels too long, because the Chiefs are 100% committed to impose their sarcastic views till the last second. The best moments here come when Wilson loosens up a little on the Sunday morning hangover atmosphere portrayed in 'My Life' or the stomping 'Misery Company', but even then he can't help addressing the whole nation with some acid lines that are true yet generic ("The weight of the world is in our hands, right/Straight as my oath that I live by/Don't even know what we're fighting for"). Unfortunately, his message often gets diluted in a desperate try to make it more accessible.
If the record had seen the light of day back in 2007 or even one year later, it surely would've had a lot more impact than it does today. Since it's simply the band being themselves again, but with a bit more flair, EEE&W
would have been perfect at the time to keep their spark glowing. Still, who's already tired of their shtick won't be bothered with this one, even if the melodies are more powerful and compelling this time.