Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval
And so Kaiser Chiefs question the concept of the album by releasing an album. Just a few weeks after their rule-breaking, pic 'n mix download experiment, offering fans the opportunity to create their own ten track affair from a selection of 20, the old regime and rules kick in and demand a proper effort; one that can be packaged, shipped and shelved and, ultimately, sold to the public - some of whom may already have bought some (or all) of these tracks once before. We're told these 13 tracks are a combination of the band's favourites and those that proved most popular on download, alongside one new track that was unfinished at the time of the original launch. Whether this bore a resemblance to the running order the band originally envisaged, we may never know. It may not matter. This is how The Future Is Medieval will be judged and remembered.
It's a tentative time for bands of this vintage. Off With Their Heads, the Chiefs' last album seemed to fair poorly in the Sales & Reception Sweepstakes yet, such is the state of the industry, bookers are still happy to hire the KCs and their ilk for the annual round of festivals. There will always be a new generation of festival goers happy to bounce around in the mud to 'I Predict A Riot' the logic runs. Those looking for obvious fest setlist additions from the new album may come up empty-handed, although the careering 'Dead or in Serious Trouble' has a certain Madness-like charm and 'Kinda Girl You Are' has a solid enough mod pop pedigree, with a rare glimpse of their previous lyrical cheek ("I thought you were American ...").
'Things Change' is an early indication that the overall vibe this time is sometimes more David Bowie than David Essex, and the appetite for the unprecedented, 80s-style tracks like 'Man on Mars' might prove limited. You get the idea that the recording sessions began with the more standard, Kaiser-sounding tracks like 'Starts With Nothing' and 'When All Is Quiet', where the more melancholy corners of Pete Townsend's work with The Who creep in. But whether it was due to boredom, creative differences or a loosening of the top button in the studio, aspects of the rest are notably different (though not necessarily more successful) with an overall sense that while the band were stripped and ready for action, performance anxiety set in. There's a lack of commitment behind the Vince Clark-isms of 'Heard It Break' as well as an overall muddiness to the mix which suggests weariness or uncertainty.
Either way, it leaves the listener conceding that a simple shrug may be the best response to the listening experience. But shoe-ins for T in the Park 2012? You betcha.