A NEW LEAF? Who would have thought that Kaiser Chiefs would do a Morrissey impersonation?
If familiarity really did breed contempt, well, Kaiser Chiefs wouldn’t stand much chance of winning any new friends on their sophomore disc. Because just as 2005’s promising Employment (Universal) did its best to split the difference between all the mod contempt of the Jam and the wry, post-mod disaffection of Modern Life Is Rubbish–era Blur, Yours Truly, Angry Mob expands the Chiefs merely by bringing more classic Britpop touchstones to the table. Singer Ricky Wilson could be borrowing a line from the Damon Albarn of Parklife or a solo Morrissey when he devotes three tuneful minutes to the notion that “Everything Is Average Nowadays.” But as Blur, Morrissey, and even Oasis learned the hard way, engaging in parochial social criticism — as much of Yours Truly does with its references to youth clubs and housing estates — doesn’t connect with more than a cult of Anglophiles here in the US. And if you’re going to trash the world Jarvis Cocker’s common people live in with salvos like “Remember nights out when we were young/They weren’t very good, they were rubbish,” you should at least offer an alternative. That’s why Wilson’s at his best when his complaints come as punch lines, like “Standing outside nightclubs in the snow/It’s not very cool or impressive.” Just when you think he’s about to romanticize a misspent youth, he rains on his own parade. It helps that the rest of the Chiefs have pretty much jettisoned the neo-new-wave aspirations of Employment for straight-on Britpop pub rock, with bold guitars, biting hooks, and muscular backbeats. Those ringing guitars sure do take the sting out of lazy rhymes like “Life could be worse/You could be a nurse,” even if the remark seems aimed right back in Wilson’s direction. One does wonder, however, whether that ringing isn’t Morrissey calling to ask for his voice back.
Kaiser Chiefs + The Walkmen + Annuals | Avalon, 15 Lansdowne Street, Boston | April 9 | 617.931.2000