The Hang of Music: Serious Or In Serious Trouble

Wow, the start of a new year.

I always think it’s good start as you mean to continue. So, two days late already, then…

Well, if that’s the case I’ll push on. Kaiser Chiefs, people; “The Future is Medieval”.

OK, here we go with the new setlist. What do? Will I start with the opening track, or with the first single? The answer is yes, as Little Shocks is both. It is also, up until this point, the most minimalist Kaiser Chiefs song I’ve ever heard. Just listen to it!There’s not enough going on to keep it interesting.

Hopefully, I wonder aloud if the video’s any better…

Nope. Just a really dead simple video of the band playing the song, with interspersed shots of lightning bolts. Really not much going on. So how come they decided that this would be a good opening track for the album/opening single at that.

There’s a point – what even counts as the opening track? Considering how there are 4 versions, and only 3 of them have Little Shocks as track one. When I look at the vinyl version of the tracklist on wiki, and the album version, and the deluxe iTunes version to boot, I feel like I’m looking at the list of different versions of Assassin’s Creed 3.


We’re already off to a bad start, mainly because I’ve been listening for a few minutes, and so far my attention has yet to be grabbed. In fact, it takes until track 3, “Long Way From Celebrating”, for my attention to be taken even a little bit, really. I’d’ve thought that, at the very least, “Long Way from Celebrating” would have been a better opening single.

“When All Is Quiet” REALLY reminds me of something. Potentially “Eleanor Rigby”, but I’ll leave that to your measured discretion. I’m not myself sold on the comparison. But I would sugest that whatever it is, it works quite well – unlike the very bland and dull second single, “Man on Mars”. What you may have picked up from all this is that the singles were poorly picked.

It’s possible that a part of this is the instrumentation: the songs seem to have a lot of instrumentation. And by that I mean lots of synths. The guitar and bass, like usual, stay in the background rather a lot, while the synths and vocals make up a lot of the actual music. Occasionally the guitar crops up with a simple riff that takes charge of the song’s direction; but most of the time it’s left to it’s own devices, the axe. This is par for the course for Kaiser Chiefs, though. So what’s really missing?

What’s missing is fun. One of the best things about “Employment” and “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” was how goddamn fun they were. By the Warden, you can see the joking in “Yours Truly”‘s title. It’s staring you in the face. And even the last album, “Off with their Heads” had “Never Miss A Beat”, which was just a laugh. But this isn’t nearly as tongue-in-cheek, fun-poking or mad-dance-ensuing. For all the great titles, it’s much more serious.

The one true exception on this album – as in, one that is just in general fun, and makes me want to dance – is “Kinda Girl You Are”. It’s got energy. Spirit. Something; je ne sais quoi. Moxy. Whatever! I like it, and sort of dance when I hear it. Only in my chair, obviously –  I’m not a weirdo. (Dancing round your room is SO last season.) So what a surprise that it’s actually the shortest track on the album, at 2:36. Barely in second place, at 2:37, is “Dead or In Serious Trouble”, a Cyriak Harris-alike that just barely manages to miss the mark. And the rest of this far too serious album is, on average, about 4:00 long. Methinks I sense a pattern.

Now you may be thinking that I just naturally don’t like songs that are anything over 3 minutes, like some elitist pop-fan with ADD and ritalin. And you’d be wrong – I’m an elitist **prog** fan, who feels short changed at anything under 4:00. So I feel uncomfortable with this state of affairs. Why do their shorter songs seem to have so much more going on, even though they patently have less?

The truth of the matter is that this album is not fun. It’s not particularly energetic, and the instrumentation is not particularly interesting, but I can forgive that. I can forgive a lot of problems, actually, so long as the end result is fun. For example, A-Ha, Scissor Sisters and Party Rock Anthem all have their flaws (sentimental, poorly chosen lyrics; pandering and overly radio-friendly; written by fucktards), and I think one day I will forgive Muse for stealing the Doctor Who theme and giving it bland, banal lyrics, principally because they made Doctor Who danceable. These are all fun enough to justify their collective existences.

But “The Future is Medieval” doesn’t have any of what I listen to Kaiser Chiefs for – primarily, their flipping great sense of humour. The jokes in “I Predict A Riot”, in “Saturday Night”, in “Ruby”, and even in the mellow and dull-ish “Boxing Champ” are some of the best I’ve heard. And while “Off With Their Heads” missed a tiny bit of that piss-takery, it made up for it with punch and fun tunes. But this doesn’t do either. And it is in that sense that I have to say “The Future Is Medieval” feels like a step backwards.

… I made a funny.


Posted on July 14, 2012, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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