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Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education & War (Review)

Kaiser Chiefs, Education, Education, Education & War

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE approach to Kaiser Chiefs’ fifth album, Education, Education, Education & War, has been nothing if not challenging. For starters, they’ve had to cope with the departure of co-songwriter Nick Hodgson, while vocalist Ricky Wilson opted for a stint on a reality TV show (The Voice) to raise the band’s profile.

In a recent interview, Wilson has revealed that, while difficult, Hodgson’s departure actually gave him the kick up the backside he needed, if only to rediscover his (and the band’s) anger.

But while Education, Education, Education & War certainly brings back the chant-along style of songwriting that marked their early breakthrough work, you could be forgiven for thinking that Hodgson had never departed.

This is a throwback LP designed to please the purists. There are few signs of progression. So, in that sense, they appear to be playing things safe.

Yes, there’s a linear nature to the album’s narrative that is reactionary, whether commenting on the state of Britain or the war on terror and its impact on soldiers, but only two or three tracks genuinely stand out from the masses.

One of those, Coming Home, arrives early and genuinely makes you sit up and take notice. There are chiming guitars, a keen sense of melody to offset its downbeat lyricism (“may I remind you that you’ve got nowhere to go”) and an anthemic chorus.

But you almost have to wait until penultimate track Cannons to really find another gem – and even then there’s a foot-stomping, indie-meets-punk-meets-rock element to the track that still sounds like Kaiser Chiefs channelling The Wall-era Pink Floyd. Nevertheless, it’s anthemic in its own way (you can well imagine the fans chanting “we’re going to need a lot more cannons” with giddy abandon) and features an absorbing spoken-word finale supplied by the actor Bill Nighy.

What’s more, it flows nicely into the thoughtful final track Roses, which combines tender piano arrangements with good guitar work, a slower vibe and a bittersweet finale that feels and sounds more considered than a lot of the more immediate, bang, crash, wallop stuff.

The remainder of the album, though, is best summed up by opening track The Factory Gates, which screams along in giddy fashion, even channelling comparisons with classic era The Inspiral Carpets (right down to the organ sound).

Tracks like Misery Company (with its marching-style beats, monstrous laughter interludes), Ruffians On Parade (with its towering, angular guitar riffs and full steam ahead approach) and My Life all threaten to blur into one after a while.

Yes, there’s anger here (with lyrics like “sometimes you want to get away from your life” and “hold onto your hearts if you can, it’s been the coldest since records began”). But there needed to be a little more focus and a little more invention/progression to really get this ‘reborn’ Kaiser Chiefs noticed and make them as vital as they once were.

Download picks: Coming Home, Cannons, Roses

Track listing:

  1. The Factory Gates
  2. Coming Home
  3. Misery Company
  4. Ruffians On Parade
  5. Meanwhile Up In Heaven
  6. One More Last Song
  7. My Life
  8. Bows & Arrows
  9. Cannons
  10. Roses