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Kaiser Chiefs
Off With Their Heads Isobel George , September 29th, 2008 11:26

Kaiser Chiefs - Off With Their Heads

Well, you can say they’re not prescient with that title. Having been somehow spared the executioner’s block on their second record, Kaiser Chiefs must feel by now that their date with the reviewer’s axe is come.

And who are we to argue? Just in order, though, to spare them any martyrly self-satisfaction, let us make clear that this knock-‘em-down doesn’t follow inevitably from others’ building up. They made this bed themselves, folding the sheets with professional neatness.

Because, for all the catty amusement they caused all and sundry with their blithely self-oblivious comments to the BBC deriding corporate “indie by numbers”, the fact is that if you cast your mind back, Kaiser Chiefs weren’t always that bad.

While their style, mannerisms and album titles (Employment, you see, like Leisure but more willing to “wank off a tramp for success”) grasped desperately at Blur-ish urbanity, singles like ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Modern Way’ could never really be more than a bit of bouncy, bright-eyed, cheeky fun.

Then it all went south with the deadpan, listless grey of Yours Truly Angry Mob wherein they sought fruitlessly for a serious side with GCSE stabs at social commentary, which if it had been a tenth as clever as they thought they were, would still have been very, very stupid indeed. Mark Ronson’s co-production on this third shot at immortality has been made much of, as if a band whose main, fast-dwindling appeal was always their (third-hand) English quirkiness could benefit from a man whose stock-in-trade is faceless radio polish. As it turns out, on songs like these, it’s as efficacious as an undertaker’s makeover on a corpse.

And what songs they are; one industry insider was, we hear, convinced that the band must have been in on the joke. It’s that bad. There are spasms of the old puppyish brio: ‘Good Days Bad Days’, and in particular, the almost White Stripes-y flamenco-rock of ‘Spanish Metal’, but they’re far, leadenly outweighed by the likes of the dire ‘Half The Truth’, featuring a horribly anomalous guest rap from Sway (who’d just wandered into the studio looking for Ronson, and didn’t even recognise the band) and the woeful ‘Addicted To Drugs’ which makes cringing lyrical play with Robert Palmer.

Even more engaging moments like lead single ‘Never Miss A Beat’ are sense-dullingly familiar, with the same staccato, punchy chorus and aren’t-I-smart inane observations that characterised Employment and …Angry Mob, only delivered with less energy. Lyrics like “What did you learn at school/I didn’t go… It’s cool to want nothing”, too, while they aim at dryly wry, splat limply into the target marked “unintentionally hilarious”. And that’s even before you get to the painfully-bereft-of-ideas Albarn pastiche of ‘Tomato In The Rain’.

Even pop gobshite Lily Allen, cooing anonymous backing vocals, can’t inject life into ‘Always Happens Like That’ (arranged, quite astonishingly, by David Arnold, who must also have passed by seeking Ronson, possibly in a sleepwalk).

So yes, nice attempt at a pre-emptive guillotine strike then, but it can’t divert us from the all-too audible truth that Kaiser Chiefs are walking dead men. Now, has anybody seen my black hood?

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