Review Summary: More proof that British rockers know how to rock right.
Take a combination of Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand-esque vocal stylings, the Scissor Sisters’ uber-contagious, feel-good poppy rock instrumental beats, the Arctic Monkeys’ and The Killers’ experimental instrumental tendencies and a few repetitive choruses that sound like they could have been influenced by Stillwater band Kunek, and you’d probably come out with a unique, beyond phenomenal creation that sounds quite a bit like the Kaiser Chiefs’ latest release. Yours Truly, Angry Mob was released in the U.S. on March 27, making its debut at No. 45 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart. This is the group’s second album as the Kaiser Chiefs. The first, 2005’s Employment, made it big in the U.K. but went largely unnoticed overseas (read: here in the U.S.).
Yours Truly, Angry Mob is the complete opposite of the “sophomore slump.” There’s no way this effort will go unnoticed. The group from Leeds has been around since 1997. Originally named Runston Parva, they reinvented in 2003, naming themselves after the South African soccer club, Kaiser Chiefs, after a former Kaiser Chiefs player captained the band members’ favorite football club, Leeds United A.F.C., according to http://www.Wikipedia.org. Kaiser Chiefs members are Ricky Wilson, vocals; Andrew White, guitar; Simon Rix, bass; Nick Hodgson, drums and backing vocals; and Nick “Peanut” Baines, keyboards.
I’ll be the first to admit, I unfortunately committed the reviewer’s mortal sin of forming preconceived notions about this band before I even opened the CD. In fact, it sat on my dresser for more than a week before I got bored with my current music and wagered a chance listen. When I finally cracked the clear plastic and the ever-annoying security tape to get to the disc, to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I was completely blown away.
Yours Truly, Angry Mob is proof that one can never judge a book — or an album, for that matter — by its cover. The CD isn’t unattractive, just plain, in white, black and a light, noncommittal pale yellow, with a shot of the five band members from the neck up. Not to mention, the members are usually dressed in all black in pictures and sporting indifferent facial expressions, an image that belies and understates the group’s pure musical genius, and a sound that’s anything but plain or drab.
Every song on Yours Truly, Angry Mob has a different sound to it, but they’re all equally enjoyable. Some are empowered and confident, almost overly self-assured (“I can prove anything; I’ll make you admit, again and again” from “The Angry Mob”), with plucky, guitar chords and heavier percussion, while some give off a modest, unsure but deeply moving tone that relies heavily on Baines’ keyboard skills and Wilson’s subtly-changing vocal style. Each member coaxes heavenly sounds from his instrument that collectively forms a powerful, triumphant sound. The group has been labeled as post-punk/art rock, but has a unique sound that ultimately defies classification.
Album opener “Ruby” sets the tone for the rest of Yours Truly, Angry Mob. It reached No. 1 on the U.K chart, and for good reason. It’s easily the best song on the album, a blatant admission of love (“Let it never be said that the romance is dead/ Cause there’s so little else occupying my head”) that has an infectious keyboard-laden beat and well-placed, well-sung catchy background vocals to complement it. “Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning)” is an ethereal-sounding, acoustically-backed fatalistic take on love (“I’m not sure what’s truly altruistic anymore”). Its follow-up, “Thank You Very Much,” is somewhat hectic and desperate, an overwhelmed confession that reveals the group’s take on its unexpected sudden popularity and success in the U.K. “The Angry Mob” is one of the standout tracks on the album, switching between acoustic and electric guitars with a chorus that is a profound, tongue-in-cheek observation of the more opinionated-yet-fickle portion of society (“We are the angry mob, we read the papers every day/ We like who we like, we hate who we hate but we’re also easily swayed”). The third track, “Heat Dies Down,” is another bright spot on the album. It has a musical intro and melody that recalls “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones. The roundabout piano melody and understated, almost Beatle-y vocals on the first part of hidden track, “Boxing Champ,” (which is actually a minute-and-a-half intro to track No. 10, “Learnt My Lesson Well”) evoke a melancholy feeling that is subsequently counteracted by the assertive second part of the track.
I bought Yours Truly, Angry Mob on a whim, because it looked like the most worthwhile CD in a seemingly lackluster week of a half dozen album releases. It turned out to be the best musical whim I’ve ever spent $12 on (okay, $9 – it was on sale). Bottom line: this is quite possibly – no, without a doubt – the breakthrough rock album of the year, and the best release to come from the U.K. since last year’s “Black Holes and Revelations” by Muse. Watch out for this British fivesome. Yours Truly, Angry Mob proves the Kaiser Chiefs knows what music is all about, and it’s willing to share the secret with the rest of the world.