You know when you’re unpacking a new stereo or whatever, and in your haste you accidentally bring the two bits of polystyrene crashing together (the mere mention of it is a little much, isn’t it) and the inevitable emitted sound is so face-creasingly tortuous that you’d rather listen to a nursery of seals maliciously butchered with a rusty, malfunctioning chainsaw, given the choice? And you’re a vegan too – it’s that bad. But what if after all the rubbing and squeaking and piercing sounds from your Room 101 hell, there was something pretty or worthwhile at the end of it. Like a tiny polystyrene swan sculpture with realistic rippled water effect. Or the cure for mindless town-centre binge drinking. Would you sit through it for that? Welcome then to the Kaiser Chiefs’ debut album ‘Employment’, and such a quandary.
Because by Christ they’re a jaunty band of uber-chirpy know-it-alls, really. Give ‘em an inch of ‘Parklife’ and they’ll take an acre. Why have one quirky rhyme when you can jam every song to the brim with the buggers, jump on top, squash them down a bit and find room for a few more? Why take Franz Ferdinand’s methodical approach to rhythm when you can wire Madness up to one of those electric shock endurance machines you get in ropey sea-front arcades the length and breadth of these tacky isles. And why hold back when you’ve only got 45 minutes.
What they have here is the sound of a pop-thirsty Blur circa ‘Leisure’ with the benefit of having heard ‘Parklife’ already. Straight vocal tributes to Damon like ‘What Did I Ever Give You?’ and ‘Team Mate’ might raise a questioning eyebrow, but the lyrics are so impeccably arranged and perfectly timed that you can sense there’s an active, wired mind at work behind them that should be applauded in its own right. There is just enough grasp of the ‘modern’, in the fidgety 80s electronics of the XTC-esque opener ‘Everyday I Love You Less & Less’ and snappy elastic rhythms of ‘I Predict A Riot’ and ‘Saturday Night’ to keep the copycat accusations at bay that may exist if it were the likes of the borderline-infuriating ‘Na Na Na Na Naa’ alone. Brilliant as it may be.
The threat of this album was that it’d be kind of like the Why Don’t You gang making a daytrip to the charts with a 4-pack of Red Stripe and a makeshift rounders set – a little too naïve, a little too obvious, and probably a little too now. But going straight for the jugular has paid bloody great dividends. Via painstaking attention to the detail of a decade of chest-beating British pop music and its roots, they’ve ended up wielding a minor classic.share this: