Despite being recorded in America with the producer Ben H Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley), Education, Education, Education & War finds Kaiser Chiefs at their most British: indeed, it’s something of a throwback to their debut, Employment.
Except that, as the mockingly sardonic title suggests, those dreams of employment have become the empty promises and deceits of politicians estranged from their electorate.
It’s a surprisingly angry album, Ricky Wilson’s lyrics mordantly satirising contemporary British society, but without the cheeky punchline pay-offs that used to ease the pain. Here, he can be brutally frank. “May I remind you that you’ve got nowhere to go?” he sings in “Coming Home”, a song about how we vainly try to drown disappointment in ephemeral partying. In the opener, “The Factory Gates”, his claim that “What you make on the factory floor, you take straight to the company store” harks all the way back to that earlier anthem of tied labour, “16 Tons”.
Elsewhere, his jaundiced eye alights on wannabe squaddies playing war games and fondling replica guns in “Ruffians on Parade”; the way that minds are mostly used for escapist fantasy in “Meanwhile Up in Heaven”; and the hapless lot of an army entertainer in “Misery Company”. A touch of wistful melancholy creeps into “Roses” and the morning-after-the-party song “My Life”, but there’s a mismatch overall between the angry observations and the pell-mell pop-rock riffing of tracks such as “Cannons” and “One More Last Song”, so eager to curry favour and cajole us into singalong hooks.
This kind of thing requires a fine, sly balance between the artful and the artless, and they’ve not quite got it right this time.
Download: The Factory Gates; Coming Home; Ruffians on Parade