Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Kaiser Chiefs - The Future is Medieval
Kaiser Chiefs' Oscillating Rule
It's phenomenal, though hardly apocalyptic, that a band as popular and successful as the Kaiser Chiefs should experience such a varied - if consistently enthusiastic - reaction from an audience as they did last night when performing a mix of familiar hits and new material at the beginning of their tour to launch just released and self-selection download album The Future is Medieval at the quaint Princess Pavilion in Falmouth.
And the Kaiser Chiefs are a popular and successful band, especially here in England where they are a quintessentially English group in the same way as [but not the same as] The Kinks with their lyrical witticisms and jaunty pop anthems. That variable response to the performance is analogous to being tidal: when those glorious hits were being played, the collective roar of applause, shouts and singing was like the tide surging in to break explosively on the shore [just a stone's throw from the Pavilion, in fact]; but when the new material was being played, the shaking floor and colossal choric noise ebbed to a polite if still enthusiastic appreciation. And the playing was shit-hot: these guys had clearly rehearsed hard to produce this immaculate set, and the band's live credentials have not themselves ebbed in that two-year break from the limelight: Ricky Wilson's strutting, confident vocal control, Nick Hodgson's sharp drumming and parallel vocals, Andrew White's calm anchoring guitar that gets the occasional strong solo in live performance, Simon Rix's short-haired, thumping bass, and Peanut's sound effects and keyboard embellishments - so often signalling one of those familiar tidal-wave hits.
The phenomenon of this ebb-flow response is of course partly due to the scant acquaintance we have had with the new material, and in the self-selection process of devising your own download album [clever, but I'm not wholly convinced it will prove successful], you will likely only know - to whatever degree - the 10 tracks you chose for your album from the 20 made available, leaving that other 50% even more of a brief, if any, encounter.
But the palpable phenomena for the band is that oscillating response to hits and new songs. How do they accommodate and absorb such a variable? Assuming the integrity of the new songwriting, it must be difficult to receive an uncertain to even lukewarm response, especially when juxtaposed with the performed hits' furoric reaction. As professional journeymen now, we can assume they do possess a receptive realism to this factor. But it must still chip away at the assumed integrity mentioned and, we would hope, passion to continue maturing as songwriters and performers.
What they, and bands like them, can never regain is the context from which those initial hits were born. Songs that generated the most obvious revelry last night were from Employment. When these were played, diehard to even moderate but genuine fans [and I am a 'fan' but not really of the band's generation nor the musical social and cultural context they helped to shape] will have tapped unconsciously into their own palpable memories of what happened, for example, on the very day they first heard a Kaiser Chiefs' song, saw them live at a gig and/or festival, got pissed with friends whilst their album played in the background, met or broke up up with a loved one, were sitting in that lonely bedroom dreaming out the stroylines, and so on in so many other powerful permutations of that precise time.
Like I said, it's hardly apocalyptic because this is just how it is, but uniquely so, for music and musicians, yet last night I felt I witnessed it with a joyous, empathetic but nonetheless nostalgic and pathos-tinged awareness.
Perhaps people were just having a brilliant, exhausted time and needed a rest every now and then to recharge poggoing batteries for that next familiar catalyst to a subconscious past.
It's still hard to comment on the new material. After everything I have said above, I haven't got into this yet but I know it is to do with songwriting and I haven't yet heard those consistent hooks that will hook me. Early favourites are Child of the Jago with its Pink Floydesque [a la Relics] aura - and the pre-performance recorded music included clear influences on the band like Pink Floyd, David Bowie and The Kinks-; Coming Up For Air which, perhaps obtusely, reminded me a little of The Hollies; the genuinely moving If You Will Have Me, written by Nick Hodgson about his father and his battle with Altzheimers; Man on Mars with its increasingly hypnotic 'trust you' hook, and Start With Nothing that is deceptively simple but catchy and which came across strongly in its live performance [and is an odd amalgam of Sting, Floyd and The Beatles...].
Kaiser Chiefs play Princess Pavilion again tonight and whoever is going is in for a memorable treat. I trust the tumultuous tide keeps coming in on the rest of this tour, surfed on an increasing range of songboards.
[For an excellent review/interview, go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/03/kaiser-chiefs-the-future-is-medieval?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+theguardian%2Fmedia%2Frss+%28Media%29]