Two years ago, I wrote to a girl friend to describe my love of the Kaiser Chiefs. When doing so, I chose 10 great songs by the band by which to describe their music.
Today, the Kaiser Chiefs have a great new album, Education, Education, Education and War, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of tracks from that album (such as “Meanwhile Up in Heaven,” above). But this list may still serve as a good primer for what to expect from the lads from Leeds, who perform tonight at the 9:30 Club before appearing in Delaware at the Firefly Festival on Saturday (5:15-6:15pm on the Lawn).
Here’s what I had to say:
The Kaiser Chiefs primarily write music for boys, so it won’t surprise me particularly if someone of the fairer sex does not prefer them. The Kaiser Chiefs take their lyrical inspiration and model themselves after post-punk bands of the late ’70s in particular, drawing parallels to bands like The Damned, the Stranglers and The Sound. Thematically, they are often rowdy, mean-spirited and lustful in ways often associated with “punk rock.”
Stylistically, the Kaisers are often lumped into the ongoing britpop musical genre of today, but their sound and instrumentation are very much new wave. Despite their occasionally rowdy music, they often are polite and well dressed. The first Kaiser Chiefs album Employment was a terrific debut and the second album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, was equally strong. The third album, Off With Their Heads, sounds confused and hollow to me, unfortunately! They came back strong in the United Kingdom with a great fourth album, The Future Is Medieval, which was tweaked slightly for U.S. release as a different album, Start the Revolution Without Me.
Here are 10 really great songs by the Kaiser Chiefs that kind of capture what they are about:
1. “Every Day I Love You Less and Less” from Employment
In perhaps my favorite song by the band, the full-blown synths of this song demonstrate clearly why the Kaiser Chiefs are best thought of as a new wave band. “Every Day I Love You Less and Less” is a song about a man who is sick of a woman and he’s happy to tell her in no uncertain terms to shove off. It’s absolutely no surprise that they sought out Tim Pope for the music video as he directed videos by The Cure, Altered Images, and Men Without Hats — and this song plays as a form of pop alienation that was found in all three bands. (It plays very well alongside “Friday I’m in Love,” “I Could Be Happy,” and “The Safety Dance” respectively, in my opinion. Indeed, it could be viewed as a direct reaction to The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.”)
2. “I Predict A Riot” from Employment
I was reluctant to discuss this song since it’s so well known, but again we have the winning formula of guitar and synth building up a wonderfully glam pop tune. The song, still the biggest in the Kaiser Chiefs’ catalog, introduces the band’s love of a good fight as a theme and sounds a helluva lot like the musical descendent of “Smash It Up” by The Damned.
3. “Ruby” from Yours Truly, Angry Mob
“Ruby” is about trust and desire, two common themes in the Kaiser Chiefs. The singer wants the girl of the song, Ruby, but he doesn’t trust that she’s serious in returning his affections. She’s playing with him. The Kaiser Chiefs often voice a healthy distrust of women. The song’s down-tempo chorus and dominant guitar make this song happen. Plus, the repetition in this song is fun and easy for singalongs!
4. “My Kind of Guy” from Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Another slower song but with a great glam chorus, “My Kind of Guy” is another song that speaks of the Kaiser Chiefs love of a good fight. This song admires a trickster who likes to fuck up other people: “I don’t mind if you’re unkind, ‘cos you’re reminding me of me.” Looking out for number one is another idea that the Kaiser Chiefs revisit pretty often.
5. “Addicted to Drugs” from Off With Their Heads
I actually don’t prefer the Kaiser Chiefs’ third album, Off With Their Heads. Still, I cannot ignore it entirely, so I select “Addicted to Drugs” as an example of the band’s biting sense of humor. “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to drugs” — invokes the Robert Palmer hit “Addicted to Love” while also thumbing one’s nose as the opposition, something the Kaisers love to do.
6. “I Like It Too Much” from Off With Their Heads
This entry but highlights the Kaisers’ concerns with human evolution and how you come to be what you are. Such discussions of evolution serve as allegories for how to excuse the simple-minded or outright stupid, who often are targets of attack in the lyrics of the Kaiser Chiefs. From a matter of composition, this song also is a bit closer to what I like to see from the Kaisers.
7. “Little Shocks” from The Future Is Medieval
A great tune with a great beat that builds to a crescendo in a terrific electro sheen. “Little Shocks” is about a man’s desire for a woman who he doesn’t see very often but who dominates his thoughts. The “Little Shocks” of the title refers to big effects from little things and also cleverly references the electric sound of the song.
8. “Kinda Girl You Are” from The Future Is Medieval
The Kaisers return to the theme of distrusting a girl. She looks good, but what’s she really like? It’s all about wanting a girl that maybe you cannot have.
9. “On the Run” from Start the Revolution Without Me
“On the Run” deals with two common Kaiser Chiefs themes: fighting and trust. In a similar manner thematically to the song “The Angry Mob,” the song poses a challenge where the singer evokes a “fight or flight” situation. The song could be an analogy as the veracity of others and their accounts are under question, so “On the Run” may not actually refer to physical flight but may serve as an allegory for verbal confrontation. The refrain “I live for these moments, just like this one” suggests victory in the confrontation.
10. “If You Will Have Me” from Start the Revolution Without Me
An unexpectedly sentimental song about a man singing to his mother in memory of his father. It’s not entirely surprising as the Kaisers again return to concerns about being a man — and father-son relationships, or the lack thereof, are common fodder in songs for boys.
David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel”
The Damned, “Smash It Up”
The Stranglers, “Always the Sun”
The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love”