- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It used to be that bands could put out a few rough-edged records at the beginning of their careers before really diving into A-game material. Back then, Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix says, a group got better through touring — and “after a few albums, they became big, really good bands.”

Music-industry demands and consumers’ short attention spans have curtailed that practice, although the Leeds, England-based Kaiser Chiefs might have discovered a loophole other groups might wish to explore: Produce your first trial-and-error records under a different name and then, when you’re ready for the big time, reinvent yourselves, and it’s full steam ahead.

Years before they charted, swept the Brit Awards or headlined major festivals, the Kaiser Chiefs played under the name Parva and made what Mr. Rix calls “unfocused” music “with lots of influences.” (Read: too many.)

“It got to the point where it was a dead end,” he says. “It was give up or start a new band. So, we just basically started a new band with the same people.”

The new band and its self-financed 2004 single, “Oh My God,” were powerful enough to land on the U.K. charts (at No. 66) without the backing of a record label, and the three years that followed brought a dizzying array of accomplishments: a record deal, two U.K. Top 10 albums and prestigious gigs that included slots at Glastonbury and Live 8.

In the time it has taken Britney Spears to raze her career, the British quintet has gone from relative unknowns to leaders of the new-wave revival.

“It was just a matter of time,” Mr. Rix says. “We were always one of the bigger bands [in Leeds]. We’re just writing better songs now.”

The Britpop outfit has showcased its “improved songwriting” on two discs you might file between your Kinks and Clash albums and your Franz Ferdinand records. The first, “Employment,” had its U.S. release in 2005, and the latest, “Yours Truly, Angry Mob,” arrived last month — just in time to build momentum for a U.S. tour that includes a stop at Coachella and an appearance on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”

For the uninitiated, the group’s live shows are infused with so much energy that when an ankle injury forced lead singer Ricky Wilson into a cast, he barely slowed down his stage jumping.

“I don’t think it’s possible to really get us until you’ve seen us live,” Mr. Rix says.

The Kaiser Chiefs storm the 9:30 Club (www.930.com) on Saturday, headlining a sold-out 10 p.m. show.

Kuttin’ Koala

Canadian turntablist Kid Koala (born Eric San) has a knack for digging up tasty snippets and eclectic sounds to use in his mash-ups, which bring together elements as far-flung as a classic jazz piano tune, a hip-hop percussion line and quirky movie dialogue. The resulting ear-snacks are always peppered with dexterous scratching, usually with a side of visual or interactive fun — from the DJ’s liner-notes illustrations to the bingo game he created to accompany his 2003 Short Attention Span Theater tour.

While many of today’s musicians are increasingly reliant on production tricks and studio sound, Kid Koala has set himself apart as one of the few music-makers who still believe it’s all about art, not album sales.

He’s on the road to support his third studio undertaking, “Your Mom’s Favorite DJ,” released in late 2006 on U.K. label Ninja Tune.

Unlike his previous albums — which were interrupted by a demanding touring schedule with the Beastie Boys, Radiohead and Deltron 3030 — the artist says his current effort came together relatively quickly. “I accumulated all these bits of sound and collected all these things I’d wanted to play and didn’t get back into the studio for a long time,” he says.

When the Kid finally sat down to assemble “Mom’s Favorite” after ample time to gel in his mind, it came together in about six weeks — nearly as long as it took him to cut “Basin Street Blues,” the trippy jump-off track to his earlier outing, 2003’s “Some of My Best Friends Are DJs.” He’s pleased with his new offering and has another reason to smile after recently marrying his “favorite person.” “She’s on tour with me now,” he says of his “honeymoon tour.”

One might surmise his significant other to be a bit miffed about having to mix business with honeymoon pleasure, but the musician denies it. “She’s a set designer, and I’m a DJ who’s into vintage records,” he says, “so every time we see a flea market at the side of the road we … go check it out.”

The collecting duo are slowly filling up their car with old vinyl and lamp shades, so look for an overloaded vehicle cruising down H Street Northeast to the Rock and Roll Hotel (www.rockandrollhoteldc.com) on Wednesday, when Kid Koala will perform using four turntables to re-create multilayered ditties from his latest disc, plus some oldies and new musings.

Doors open at 8 p.m.; the show begins at 9.


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