Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval

Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval

2.5/5

2011

Yet another entry into the canon of unconventional Internet release strategies, Kaiser Chiefs’ fourth studio album, The Future Is Medieval, works like this: they’ve recorded 20 songs; you pick your 10 favorites on their website and pay for the 10-song record. So, obviously, there’s no official tracklist. (A version of the album ostensibly created by lead singer Ricky Wilson is posted online too, which I suppose is the closest thing to official.) As such, it’s easily one of the most democratically minded albums ever released, but it causes a bit of trouble for me. There are 184,756 possible combinations of this record (double-check my math, but I think that’s correct), taking both the songs and their ordering into consideration. So let’s just get this out of the way now—this review will have to be taken with a grain of salt since, well, nearly everyone’s record will be different. I am just going to review the album as a collection of 20 songs. If this bugs you, then go read something else.

It’s clear The Future is Medieval was not meant as a double album since those types of records tend to sprawl, covering all sides of an artist’s personality and exploring some new sounds. Medieval, however, doesn’t sprawl whatsoever, and other than a few musical quirks here and some jamming there, the Kaisers play it relatively safe, simply providing a sequel to Off With Their Heads. Other than a few pointedly energetic tracks like lead single “Little Shocks” and “Starts With Nothing,” nearly every song here is simple and pleasantly melodic, no anthems on the level of “I Predict A Riot,” “Ruby” or “Never Miss A Beat,” no anthems at all really, which is strange since they’ve always been the group’s strong suit. Instead, Medieval finds the Kaisers leaning hard on their classicist pop tendencies, drawing heavier on XTC and Blur than the Jam this time around (though Paul Weller and co. still supply the music’s foundation). Those comparisons might imply that the album is clever, charming and packed with hooks (and to a certain extent, all those qualities are present), but unfortunately much of this record is lightweight and forgettable, no matter which songs end up on your version. Sure, Medieval has is moments—”Little Shocks,” “When All Is Quiet” and “If You Will Have Me” for instance—but none of these tracks live up to the heights of the Kaisers’ best work. And while nothing here is glaringly awful, many tracks are simply mediocre, pleasant to listen to but disappearing from memory as soon as they end. The lyrics too, while occasionally witty as Kaisers records often go, are still a step down from other of the band’s outings, just simple observations of day-to-day life that don’t add up to something greater. Kaiser Chiefs are to be commended for their innovative release method, but even if you assembled the best set of tracks in the best possible order, The Future Is Medieval would still be a disappointing record.

(Note: an official 13-track physical release (including one new song) was announced a week after this review was originally posted, but this article still stands as my assessment of the record. In 2012, in the U.S., the album was repackaged and re-titled as Start The Revolution Without Me, swapping out “Out of Focus,” “Long Way from Celebrating,” “Dead or in Serious Trouble,” and “Coming Up for Air” for “On the Run,” “Cousin in the Bronx,” “Problem Solved,” and “Can’t Mind My Own Business.”)

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Posted on June 7, 2011, in Kaiser Chiefs. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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