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Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs – Stay Together

 
By on Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Kaiser Chiefs Stay Together album coverLike it or not, Kaiser Chiefs find themselves in the unenviable position of being a veteran rock band. Hugely popular in the second half of the Noughties, you couldn’t get away from them on the radio in the UK if you tried. As the next decade progressed and primary songwriter, founding member and drummer Nick Hodgson left the band. The question on everyone’s mind, then, was could they could continue as a viable band? While 2014’s ‘Education, Education, Education and War’ album garnered mixed reviews, there was enough to prove to everyone that they still had it in them. With their sixth album ‘Stay Together’, on the surface it looks like they’ve done a complete 180. However, frontman Ricky Wilson says, “When we wrote the first record we were very direct, little needed explaining. The songs seemed to speak for themselves and did all the hard work for us. [First single] ‘Parachute’ is pretty self-explanatory and a bit of a return to that. ‘Parachute’ is probably the first love song we’ve written since ‘Ruby'”. Bassist Simon Rix goes one step further: “But you want modern technology. You don’t want to just be dinosaurs with guitars.”

With as honest explanations like these, how could any Kaiser Chiefs fan balk? Well, many have. Some have even gone so far to suggest Wilson in particular has sold out to the pop world following his coaching stint on The Voice. If you read past the negative comments to their videos for ‘Parachute’ and ‘Hole in My Soul’, I am buoyed in particular by those who say the new song is fresh and positive. It’s a common complaint once a band gets to a certain ‘age’ in their career and if they leave off ‘the hits’ from a set list. Based on the highly unscientific conversations I have with bands off the record, the majority of them say they get bored of playing the same old stuff all the time – wouldn’t you if you were playing the same songs every night? – and are just itching to get new material out. They’re not writing different sounding songs purposely to annoy you. At the end of the day, musicians are people too, so cut them some slack. [End of PSA.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3svLcAkcw1U[/youtube]

Wilson explains that the ‘Education…’ record “was our protest album, then ‘Stay Together’ is our relationship album.” He admits that working with producer Brian Higgins (Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys, New Order) “brought a very different approach to song writing and recording, it was a steep learning curve”. Whatever they did in the studio together, there seems no evidence of this learning curve, as the results are polished. Carrie and I joked one year at SXSW that you couldn’t swing a dead cat around Austin without hitting an attractive synth player. Well, almost.

As unprecedented as this use of synths (and to this extent) is on a Kaiser Chiefs records, there is no mistaking the catchiness of these numbers. ‘We Stay Together’ begins the album…wait for it…with a disco beat. Yes, you read that right. With Wilson’s effective crooning, he’s an effective ringleader for these proceedings under a mirrorball. Not the most elegant of opening tracks (“and there’s a time bomb and it’s gonna go off / then we’ll disarm it ‘cos I’m so better off with you”), but it’s still promising. The dance throwback vibe is revisited in ‘Press Rewind’, cowritten with MNEK.

It’s not all fun and games on ‘Stay Together’, however. ‘Why Do You Do It to Me’ is not a “I love you so much, you’re driving me crazy’ kind of song. It’s a foot-stomping, guitar wub wub wub, “Why do you always try to make me feel like a nobody?” kind of song. One wonders if that was written for Donald Trump. In another strangely pop moment with requisite shouts from Wilson in the chorus, ‘Indoor Firework’, he gets existentialist and life affirming on us in the pre-chorus: “love is a weapon / life is a war / death is a number / waiting to fall / living and I believe, and I believe in living”. There’s another confusing battle with the mind in ‘Sunday Morning’. As the most rock moment on the album with Andrew White’s guitar twanging away and a slaphappy drum beat underneath, it also oddly sticks out like a sore thumb among all the pop gems. Could it be that Kaiser Chiefs have succeeded in their metamorphosis?

With the exception of a falsetto experiment gone wrong in the painful ‘High Society’, ‘Stay Together’ makes the case that the way forward for this band to remain hip and successful is by the pop route. In closer ‘Still Waiting’, there even seems to be a clue placed in the lyrics to suggest they’re perfectly okay with this: “we’re still waiting / even though we’re not electric anymore”. The world where ‘I Predict a Riot’ and ‘Never Miss a Beat’ became hits is long gone now, and Kaiser Chiefs decided they wouldn’t just stand there and pretend time hasn’t moved. They’ve taken a huge risk, stepping well out of their comfort zone. While they might hemorrhage some fans still holding on to the old days, there should be plenty new ones lining up to cheer on this new chapter in their career.

8/10

‘Stay Together’, the sixth album from Kaiser Chiefs, is out now on Fiction Records / Caroline International. In addition to previously announced UK arena dates for February and March 2017 and following a public shaming by their Scottish fans, they’re playing an uncharacteristically small show at Glasgow ABC tonight. For more on Kaiser Chiefs on TGTF, follow this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2170: Kaiser Chiefs

 
By on Friday, 26th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Kaiser Chiefs are readying for the release of their sixth album, their second without former primary songwriter Nick Hodgson. ‘Stay Together’ is definitely sounding intriguing, based on surprise first single ‘Parachute’ (reviewed by me here) and the LP’s latest taster. The promo video for ‘Hole in My Soul’ is another colourful entry from the veteran hitmakers, this time taking to the track for a fun day with their own special set of race cars that I hope will be auctioned off at some point for charity. (I mean, what else are you going to do with such brightly dressed Hondas, am I right?) Enjoy a day at the races with the Kaiser Chiefs below. We’re waiting patiently for ‘Stay Together’ to drop on the 14th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. In the meantime, for more of TGTF’s coverage on Kaiser Chiefs, follow this link. Check out the band live on their arena tour in the start of 2017; all the dates are listed here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDph7oYPET8[/youtube]

 

Kaiser Chiefs / February and March 2017 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 19th August 2016 at 9:00 am
 

The next thing you know, Kaiser Chiefs will be releasing their newest album. ‘Stay Together’, their sixth, will be released on the 7th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. Following the album’s unveiling to the public, they will also be touring. They’ve just announced a new UK arena tour for February and March 2017. Tickets will go on sale next Friday, the 26th of August, at 9 AM.

They previously released LP single ‘Parachute’, which garnered mixed response from fans who were surprised – or energised – by their new, shinier pop direction. They’ve now revealed another single, ‘Hole in My Soul’, which you can listen to below the tour dates. For all of TGTF’s coverage on the Kaiser Chiefs, follow this link.

Wednesday 22th February 2017 – Llandudno Venue Cymru Arena
Friday 24th February 2017 – Bournemouth International Centre
Saturday 25th February 2017 – Birmingham Barclaycard Arena
Monday 27th February 2017 – Plymouth Pavilions
Tuesday 28th February 2017 – Brighton Centre
Wednesday 1st March 2017 – London O2
Friday 3rd March 2017 – Manchester Arena
Saturday 4th March 2017 – Leeds First Direct Arena

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzIrqi3aisI[/youtube]

 

T in the Park 2016: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 27th July 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Following the festival’s disastrous relocation to Strathallan Castle last year, the organisers of T in the Park were keen to reassure fans that this year’s event on the castle grounds would be different. However, by Friday morning, news had surfaced of two deaths and the theft of a cash machine from the main arena, so I was feeling apprehensive before I even arrived. While I was not present in 2015 to comment on how much the layout or travel to and from the festival has been improved, I felt there was still issues. The unnecessary walk from where we arrived to the actual entrance was lengthy and needless, as I was not searched once on the way. However, I was excited to have finally arrived to see what Tin the Park was really all about.

I headed straight towards the BBC Introducing stage. I have always found that despite their boasting of a huge array of global stars, it is often the smaller tents that contain the hidden gems of festivals. I spent quite a lot of my day going in and out of this tent, discovering a few acts that I can imagine will be huge in the coming months.

Scottish native singer/songwriter and lead singer Charlotte Brimner of Be Charlotte, exhibited a captivating combination of raw hip-hop talent, combined with a beautiful and enthralling singing voice. Probably the heaviest band of the festival, Northern Ireland-based four-piece Making Monsters gave an exhilarating performance. Lead singer Emma Gallagher’s explosive vocal and presence onstage is something to be marvelled at, as she moves with ease from deep guttural growls to soaring melodies.

Winner of the illustrious Brits Critics’ Choice and BBC Sound of 2016 polls Jack Garratt has had an impressive year. Taking to the main stage at T in the Park, his mash-up version of Justin Timberlake and Craig David’s ‘Senorita / 7 Days’ was a highlight of his set, making both songs his own while also showing his endless flair for crafting songs. His performance was impeccable, a faultless act by a raw troubadour talent and an electronic magician. Moving around the stage with vigour, he moves with ease from each instrument including drums and guitar as he has evidently mastered more than one craft.

Rapper Tinie Tempah pulled what seemed to be the largest crowd daytime on Saturday, playing smash hits such as ‘Pass Out’ to a very excitable crowd. Having previously seen Tinie perform with a full band, I found it disappointing that the rapper was only backed by a DJ for his performance at T in the Park. While it was an extremely enjoyable performance, I felt something was lacking in the form of a band accompaniment which could have added to his performance. Despite this, the audience hung on the rapper’s every word, proving he’s the perfect midday act to set the tone for Day 2 at the festival.

It was about half way through the day that Biblical-style rain descended upon the festival, making this year’s T in the Park one of the muddiest festivals I have ever attended. The grounds became so bad that it was difficult to make my way across to other stages and at one point, I even wrapped my feet in plastic bags. After hiding from the rain for what seemed forever, underneath anything that would cover me, I made my way towards the other side of festival. Playing the Radio 1 stage ahead of the release of their sixth album were the Kaiser Chiefs, who proved that they are still able to pull a huge crowd. After the last few weeks of political unrest and in the wake of Brexit, the band’s song ‘Angry Mob’ gave fresh resonance to the lyrics, the crowd singing along ecstatically.

I decided to stay around the Radio 1 stage for the rest of the night, as the thought of wading through the now knee-deep mud to see someone press play on the decks was unappealing. The mesmerising set of Manchester alt-rockers The 1975 (pictured at top) made for a superior alternative headline set. Lead singer Matt Healy tells the crowd that this is the first time the group have ever been asked to headline a stage at a festival, so this is a special event.

Their hit ‘Love Me’, the song that launched their new record, erupts with its smooth and Prince-esque funk. You get a real sense of a band who have fully bloomed from pop obscurity into arguably the biggest band of the year, something which is magnified by the audience’s reaction of seeing it live. The hypnotic staging with its colourful light show, alongside Healy’s undeniable presence, makes for the perfect combination. Drawing their set to a close with an encore of ‘Chocolate’, ‘The Sound’ and ‘Girls’, the band finished their set – and Saturday at T in the Park – on a high.

 

Video of the Moment #2121: Kaiser Chiefs

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Judging from the first taster of their upcoming sixth album ‘Stay Together’ out this autumn, Kaiser Chiefs have taken a risk with their direction, and I think it might just pay off. ‘Parachute’, which I reviewed on TGTF here last week, could be likened to a daredevil stunt, so the promo for it makes great sense. For the video, frontman Ricky Wilson dons an unusual swimming suit to take some great leaps from a diving platform. His bandmates, initially nonplussed by their leader’s silly actions, eventually take closer notice and join in on the fun. Watch the video below.

‘Stay Together’. the new Kaiser Chiefs album, will be released on the 7th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Kaiser Chiefs, head here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3svLcAkcw1U[/youtube]

 

Single Review: Kaiser Chiefs – Parachute

 
By on Wednesday, 15th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Two years ago, indie rock stalwarts Kaiser Chiefs came out swaggering with a new album, and new drummer Vijay Mistry in tow. It was their first without original principal songwriter Nick Hodgson, deciding to leave the band who had made him a star. Naturally, there were big questions being lobbed around the future of the group, left untethered out in the ocean. To the surprise of most everyone, myself included, fifth Kaiser Chiefs album ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ with American Ben Allen as producer gave proof that there was life left in their career yet. (I wrote about ‘Meanwhile Up in Heaven’ on my other site Music in Notes here.) This week, they’ve revealed their newest track and indeed, we see (and hear) the Kaisers in a way we’ve never seen them before.

According to frontman and judge on The Voice Ricky Wilson, there was a concerted effort while writing this new album to return to their early roots. “When we wrote the first record we were very direct, little needed explaining. The songs seemed to speak for themselves and did all the hard work for us. ‘Parachute’ is pretty self-explanatory and a bit of a return to that. ‘Parachute’ is probably the first love song we’ve written since ‘Ruby’.” Interestingly, they’ve chosen to work with producer Brian Higgins (New Order, Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys) on the new material, which has led to the development of a surprisingly completely different sound. Wilson says, too, that the topic for discussion changed as well: “When we finished writing the last record we realised that the most important thing to everyone is what’s going on in their lives. Their “personal politics” and that’s what this album is about. If ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ was our protest album, then ‘Stay Together’ is our relationship album.”

If this is an album about relationships, the uber-shiny synth finish of ‘Parachute’ suggests a more obvious, joyful bent that’s far more mainstream pop-orientated than the Kaiser Chiefs sound has ever been before. One major negative to the single: because of the way it’s constructed, you can’t hear the individual players’ contributions, which is what you come to expect from an indie rock band. However, this is partially mitigated by Wilson’s voice, which works well – astonishingly well! – within a pop treatment. In the bridge, he sings in a reserved manner “I don’t mind / it’s not important anymore / I realise / you’re at the core of what I need”. Is this really the same man who brought us the satisfying anarchy of ‘I Predict a Riot’?

Early detractors have cited that Wilson’s time with The Voice has negatively and irreparably affected the band’s direction, but I think that’s too easy of a conclusion to draw. True, the sweetly sung, slightly irritating chorus of “if we’ve only got one parachute, I’d give it to you” isn’t on par with the cheekiness of “what do you want for tea? / I want crisps” of ‘Never Miss a Beat’. However, with the exception of Mistry, dare I say it, Wilson and co. have reached middle age. And the older you get, the less you’re inclined to be singing the same songs you were singing when you were an angry kid, am I right?

In an interview at the NME Awards 2016 in Austin, Texas, back in February, Wilson further explained that “For the last ten years, I thought to write a universal song to appeal to everybody you had to talk about big topics… but we’ve never really written love songs.” If he’s being completely honest about their aspirations for this new release – and I’m inclined to believe him – then I think it will be well worth our while to wait for the full album and see just how good (or not) they are to crafting a popular love song.

Not a requisite purchase for the devoted Kaisers fan by any means, but such an interesting, unexpected curve ball I don’t think anyone saw coming.

7/10

Kaiser Chiefs’ sixth album ‘Stay Together’ will be out on the 7th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. Latest single ‘Parachute’ is out now. The band will be hosting a special fan-only show at London Palladium on the 11th of July. For more on Kaiser Chiefs on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I15E5zkdGRk[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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