- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Kaiser Chiefs

Yours Truly, Angry Mob

Umvd Labels

British pop darlings the Kaiser Chiefs were anointed the next big thing almost as soon as they began playing shows under their current name. Formerly known as Parva, the five friends from Leeds saw their 7-inch 2004 single “Oh My God” chart in the United Kingdom despite their not having a record contract at the time.

Even among the spate of next-big-thing bands coming out of the U.K. — notably Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and the Futureheads — the Kaiser Chiefs stand out for both their conspicuous commercial success and their unapologetically conventional approach to pop.

Their second full-length album, “Yours Truly, Angry Mob,” is more reflective and less energetic than its 2005 predecessor, “Employment.” The formula is basically the same: winning hooks served up courtesy of guitarist Andrew White and keyboardist Nick Baines, held together by the taut, controlled drumming of Nick Hodgson.

However, Britpop succeeds or fails on the vocals, and singer Ricky Wilson has a prodigious set of pipes, capable of soaring to great heights or bopping up and down in a confined musical space. Mr. Wilson knows when to emphasize the raw, primal quality of his voice and when to drip the honey.

Like a good pop album, “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” is front-loaded with winning songs; best among them is the single “Ruby,” which already has topped the U.K. pop charts. It kicks off with a bluesy guitar line reminiscent of a Led Zeppelin riff, then bleeds into an aggressive — yet uncomplicated — love song driven by the contrast of its heavy drum-and-bass backbone and airy backing vocals.

“The Angry Mob” is the kind of song found on many a sophomore album by a band that has met with early, outsized success. Maybe it reflects their disillusionment with popular success, suspicious, perhaps, that their newfound fans are just dilettantes dancing blithely from craze to craze. The chorus goes, “We are the angry mob/ We read the papers every day/ We like who we like/ We hate who we hate/ But we’re also easily swayed.”

The taste of success also comes through on “Highroyds,” named for a council estate known apparently all too well to the Kaiser Chiefs lads. The song rides a crest of good-natured wrath that feels just right alongside the driving punk guitar part. It’s about the unadulterated joy of dishing out comeuppance to those still stuck in the places they left behind. Indeed, Mr. Wilson seems particularly passionate singing the lines, “Got a text from an ex/ She wants to know when we’re in London next/ ‘And will you write a song about me?’/ I don’t think so.”

The Kaiser Chiefs fail when they self-consciously stray from the path of the hit parade. “Learnt My Lesson Well,” topping out at more than five minutes, starts off as a piano ballad. Its arpeggiated chords back an adolescent memoir of bullying before accelerating into a bouncy, Beatles-inspired ditty with lines like, “Life could be worse/You know we all could be cursed.”

“Retirement” is another throwaway, a mock slacker anthem that musically mirrors the drudgery of its subject matter a little too closely.

The Kaiser Chiefs are at their best when they keep the tempo up. Their best songs are raucous and boastful and feel as if they would sound even better played live under hot lights before a sweaty, moshing crowd.

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