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Album Review
The Future is Medieval

The Future is Medieval
by Kaiser Chiefs

Universal / B-Unique

Review Date
25th August, 2011
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

Kaiser Chiefs take one step backward and two steps forward on latest album The Future is Medieval.

The idea was there: set up a website for your forthcoming album in which you allow fans to ‘design their own’ record. You offer them 20 tracks from which to choose 10, you allowed them to design cover art, and you suggested they upload their finished product so others could purchase it, even giving them a share in the profit if their conglomeration of sound and picture was popular. And I’m sure fans loved this – especially the offering of 20 tracks (which was surely a clever guise to get one person to purchase two albums over one release) – but the end result, these ‘albums’, is flawed. They contradict the form of an album, in which an artist arranges their strongest tracks in a way that promotes both the journey through and the strength of each track.

It’s a shame that these pseudo albums are littering the web and detracting from the physical copy, because The Future is Medieval – The Band Version – is a commendable progression from their previous outings. In places the meat-and-three-veg Brit pop we have come to expect from Kaiser Chiefs – particularly after questionable single ‘Ruby’ and almost everything that followed – is still present, but it arrives replete with quirky time signatures and almost-gothic instrumentation. ‘Dead or in Serious Trouble’ - arguably the most obvious track on the album - is underpinned by relentless percussion giving front man Ricky Wilson’s elongated vocals a clarion-inflection and, with clever backing vocals and interesting synthesizer parts interspersed through suggests repeated listening and inspiration from I Should Coco track ‘Strange Ones’, not a bad sounding board at all. The stand out tracks that suggest a new, exciting direction from Kaiser Chiefs are those that have infused jangly, sixties Brit Pop with unashamed New Wave electronic flourishes. ‘Man on Mars’ with its Bowie-esque title marries smooth, melodic guitars to a rhythmic, borderline industrial drum machine and staccato synethesizer parts for an intricate, kaleidoscopic result. Similarly the single ‘Little Shocks’, with is ‘house of horrors’ minor orientation and exaggerated piano parts that mesh into a bed of noise for the – albeit quite played out – chorus, presents a band stepping out of the shadow of questionable last releases and back into the spotlight that made their album Employment such an exciting debut. Similarly Wilson’s lyrical prowess it back on form, articulating – like Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys did with their similarly timed breakthroughs – the mundane nature of suburban English living.

Don’t get me wrong, there are problems with this album: 14 tracks is too many and by the eleventh Kaiser Chiefs have reverted to formulaic song constructions, and I frequently find myself impressed with their progression from a strictly Kaiser Chiefs perspective which - considering their last album - perhaps makes their achievements less impressive. However, the first ten tracks of The Future Is Medieval, listened to consecutively, present Kaiser Chiefs as a band desperately trying new things, and for the most part, succeeding.


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