In the Post #116: Kaiser Chiefs preview new album with taster track ‘Misery Company’

By on Wednesday, 11th December 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

In case you were keeping score, the last real studio album by Kaiser Chiefs was in 2011. Their choose-your-own-tracks-and-order LP ‘The Future is Medieval’ proved to be less of a commercial boon than expected. The following year say the release of ‘Souvenir: The Singles 2004-2012’, the kind of collection that nostalgia bands like New Order release for their obsessive fans. Frankly, I thought the Kaisers were toast. Interestingly enough, some 8 months after its release, I saw them play before Keane at a Filter / American Rag showcase at SXSW 2012, during which frontman Ricky Wilson’s magnetism and performance nearly left me verklempt and the band brought it. On the basis of this one live performance, I thought, hmm, maybe the group entity known as Kaiser Chiefs still had legs.

Monday afternoon, Wilson stopped in to visit his old pal Steve Lamacq at Western House. While I find it hard to believe that Wilson just happened to be in the neighbourhood and was begged by BBC staff for a chat, it did give him the opportunity to spill what beans he could about Kaiser Chiefs’ new album ‘Education, Education, Education & War’, to be released in the new year. This will be the Kaisers’ album without chief songwriter, founding member and drummer Nick Hodgson, who left the band to pursue other projects in December 2012. Wilson related a funny anecdote about Hodgson’s replacement, Vijay Mistry of Yorks electronic band Club Smith, saying Mistry reminds them of how good their lives are as rock stars, as everything is so exciting to him being suddenly thrust into the big band’s touring life.

But back to the new material. Wilson divulged the album required them to trek out to the States, Atlanta specifically, to work with producer Ben Allen, who also co-produced Bombay Bicycle Club‘s ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ and Delphic‘s panned 2013 album ‘Collections’. Neither band are of the same genre as Kaiser Chiefs, which begs the question, what exactly is this new album going to sound like? Wilson insists that both them and Allen were “hungry” in the process of making the album, which I guess means they had massive appetites for success when working on it together. Can you hear the early days that Nick “Peanut” Baines says it sounds more like than their more recent efforts? Have a listen to ‘Misery Company’, whose song title Wilson explained was given to them as a bit of a joke by Jack White backstage at a festival in 2008.

From start to finish, there is a thudding backbeat throughout the whole track. That, unfortunately, is its most noticeable feature. And not wholly unlike the punishing, entirely memorable one of Franz Ferdinand‘s ‘Take Me Out’. What’s missing from the proceedings? The singalong chorus that made ‘Ruby’ such a fun song live, the frantic pace of ‘Never Miss a Beat’ or even the oddly charming drawls of Wilson such as those found in ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’. What you do get instead is a strange cackling sort of laugh from Wilson during the chorus, which frankly sounds creepy on record, as so the . I’m wondering what he’s laughing at.

Lyrically too, the verses are tough: the term “misery company” is used in this tune to describe being a social pariah with few friends (“it’s hard to believe that I smile in my sleep / everyone leaves me, it’s so hard to keep company / I’m misery company”. Probably the best thing about this song are Andrew “Whitey” White’s two – yes, two! – guitar solos, which Wilson explains why this track is White’s favourite off the album. Below is a video of the band performing it at Portuguese music festival Super Bock Super Rock back in July 2012, when the song was reportedly given its first airing. Maybe it’ll work out better live, but I’m not sold on the Hodgson-less Kaiser Chiefs just yet.

6/10

Kaiser Chiefs’ fifth album ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ is scheduled to be released on the 31st of March 2014. If you’re quick, you can have a listen to Lammo’s chat with Ricky Wilson on the BBC iPlayer here before next Monday.

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