Off with Their Heads
John Metzger's #20 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2008, Volume 15, #12
Written by John Metzger
Fri December 5, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
Ever since its debut Employment hit store shelves, the Kaiser Chiefs has been threatening to take no prisoners in winning over the masses, while making a durable album to boot. Its latest set Off with Their Heads is it. Rebounding spectacularly from its lackluster sophomore affair Yours Truly, Angry Mob, on which the outfit utterly failed to move forward, the Kaiser Chiefs blazes through 11 tracks in less than 36 minutes, creating a boisterous roar that is as delightfully infectious as it is inspired.
The thunderous, bone-crushing stomp of Spanish Metal immediately dispels the notion that the Kaiser Chiefs has lost its way, and Off with Their Heads only gets better from there. As with its past endeavors, the outfit’s underlying modus operandi is to smash Sell Out-era Who into the rough-and-tumble rock of The Kinks, while adding a healthy dose of new wave effects for good measure. This time, however, with the help of producer Mark Ronson, the Kaiser Chiefs has refined its approach and polished its pop hooks. Miraculously, it has accomplished this feat without losing its exuberant explosiveness.
To put it simply, Off with Their Heads is stuffed to the brim with anthems, and it is downright impossible to avoid being swept up in the fun-filled atmospheres of their unrelenting beats and fist-pumping choruses. The guitar-driven, call-and-response clatter of Never Miss a Beat couches its mocking of adolescent apathy as a joyful sing-along, and the hard-charging Can’t Say What I Mean is frenetic, angst-filled, and insistent. At the same time, the Kaiser Chiefs deftly weaves dance floor grooves into the architecture of songs like You Want History and Good Days Bad Days — so much so that they feel as if they are club-ready re-mixes just waiting to be born.
XTC fans also should take heed. After all, now that Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have entered what appears to be a permanent state of retirement, it’s time to look elsewhere for something that captures the same magical charm of the group’s glorious brand of punk-pop. Scattered throughout Off with Their Heads, there are moments when the Kaiser Chiefs shows that it just might be the heir apparent to Partridge and Moulding’s legacy. I Like It Too Much, for example, crosses the oversized percussive beat and soaring majesty of Mummer with the jittery new wave-imbued rock of Drums & Wires. Meanwhile, Half the Truth modernizes English Settlement in a surprisingly effective fashion via a guest appearance by rapper Sway.
Off with Their Heads has one weakness: its lyrics. Throughout the endeavor, the Kaiser Chiefs tries to comment on social issues, but its vague expressions hardly read like poetry. Nevertheless, the band has learned, at least, that with a great hook and a sense of determination, what it says really doesn’t matter. Although Never Miss a Beat and Like It Too Much clearly are the highlights of the outing, the bulk of Off with Their Heads is so ingratiating that even the Kaiser Chiefs’ detractors will have to pay attention. ½
Of Further Interest...
Off with Their Heads is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box