If their lifestyle correlates with their album packaging and their obvious, deep-seeded desire to be a flagship band in the second British Invasion, then Kaiser Chiefs are zooming around London in matching green Mini’s before heading to their favorite pub to watch Man U vs. Leeds.
If their debut album, Employment, tried any harder to will itself into The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, it might get a hernia. If it tried to be any more “British,” the album would have to fit houndstooth cap on over its snarky verses and its controlled, restrained percussion.
Kaiser Chiefs so Anglo-revivalist to reproduce the early ’90s aesthetic of Blur and Super Furry Animals or even post-Skylarking XTC; they are a full-blown wormhole to the Zombies, the Kinks and the those-who-shall-not-be-named boys from Liverpool.
With a fluttering chain of guitar chords that glides along and a ready-for-humming single, “I Predict a Riot,” Kaiser Chiefs seem like a wonderful bridge to our parent’s generation and the times they sang us to sleep with “I Saw Her Standing There.” And for the most part they should be able to pull the whole thing off. Lead singer Ricky Wilson has the right mix of self-effacing charisma and priggishness to ham up choruses like, “Once you asked me what I’m thinking / I lay back and think of England / Do you know my real answer? / I was born to be a dancer.”
Guitarist Andrew White sounds at ease rattling off dependable electrical wisps and bassist Simon Rix has a decent enough sense of musicianship to know when to emerge into the musical foreground.
He’s not the only one. Employment is an album that thrives on glossy and airy tunes that rush up against the foreground of the speakers. “Oh My God” and “Modern Way” challenge even the most diligent listener to pick out any dense or dark undercurrents of sound lurking behind the patient drums and restrained group vocals.
This sense of holding back immediately sets Kaiser Chiefs apart from roughly two-thirds of young bands in rock today. Nothing dangles from the sewn-up package of Employment. It fits well with the band’s British Invasion masquerade and is the biggest selling point for Kaiser Chiefs. Their uniqueness stems from their willingness to adhere to their gimmick.
Even if listeners drink the proverbial Kool-Aid, Employment ends up leaving a sour taste in the mouth. Their act is unsustainable and their desire to go back to mop-tops and matching suits can’t be nearly as intense as they’d like it to be. The tunes are blandly tight enough but when your closest musical competition is Please, Please Me, how can a young band win?
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars