Review Summary: It's hard to please your longtime fans and casual, festival goers too...
Kaiser Chiefs have been walking a thin line lately. Their mainstream presence diminished considerably, as rock music lost ground at the beginning of this decade. However, they still fill out arenas in the UK and Europe, besides the occasional big festival runs. So, in order to keep things smooth on the live circuit side, they have been churning arena rock ditties. Unfortunately, these tracks display a dumbed-down version of themselves or rely too much on repetition and simple, forgettable melodies. They returned to political and social commentary on Education, Education, Education & War
, which ended up as their best record in quite a while. Still, its bland follow-up, Stay Together
dabbled in electronic elements to keep up with the trends and the results were messy. I hoped Duck
, the latest LP, would be sharper, yet it focuses more or less on the same themes its predecessor got lost into: love, relationships, married life and some social media related content (more precisely, how it controls your life).
As expected, Duck
wants to please everybody and this is the reason it fails to take off. The pumped opener, ‘People Know How to Love One Another’ will definitely be a concert staple. It’s a thin, rather boring anthem that wants to bring the best in us to the surface, whereas ‘Golden Oldies’ shares some embarrassing sexual innuendos over a nice melody. The music and the vocals/lyrics feel often out of sync on the record, as if everyone wanted to expand in his direction. Ricky Wilson sings with so much pathos on ‘The Only Ones’, but the instruments sound tame. The guitar needed more power to sustain the front man’s flamboyance. On the other hand, the swinging rhythm and cheerful choruses on ‘Wait’ deserved better lyrics than midlife crisis-led pub crawls and married life tales. I just hope they are sarcastic up to the point where you can’t tell exactly. Moving on, in between other duds, we can finally enjoy a couple of catchy, fun tunes such as ‘Record Collection’ or ‘Lucky Shirt’. The former boasts a ‘80s inspired synth line over groovy beats and claps. Praising the vinyl format, this song is a breath of fresh air halfway through the album. Also, ‘Lucky Shirt’ nicely melds warm bass lines with high-pitched keyboard leads, plus Ricky’s voice is on spot here too. ‘Target Audience’ is another decent cut, nevertheless, describing a love story at the office mentioning projectors and PowerPoint presentations is head-scratching (to put it politely).
Unfortunately, the remaining tracks on Duck
are average Kaiser Chiefs output. They prefer the safety of the comfort zone, although they fare much better when they show some grit. Besides this, there’s an urge in the lyrics here to keep the party going, feel good, dance, even though you have your own struggles. Yes, these are times when you need to shake off your worries, but I want them to make me aware of those social, political, environmental issues that are stressful. I know they are able to produce stronger material, I just hope they will remind themselves this as well.