Kaiser Chiefs – The Future is Medieval

written by: June 22, 2011
Release Date: June 27, 2011


Don’t call it a comeback—but after a three-year hiatus, Kaiser Chiefs may just be onto something. After nearly drowning in their pander to the pop charts Yours Truly, Angry Mob and the mixed reception of Off With Their Heads, they’ve re-emerged with a sound more radical than most may have guessed. That said, it’s an album that remains chart-worthy, but packs an underhanded punch and might put them in the eternal vein of Britain’s modern airwaves with bands like Radiohead, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys, where Blur and Oasis left off. The argument is called The Future Is Medieval.

It’s possible, if they had just kept the momentum from their first album, Kaiser Chiefs could have survived on one hit, “na na na na” sing-along kind of popularity alone—they continue to fill festivals for that reason. The riot predictors invaded our ears with worms like “Ruby,” which stuck and stuck and stuck with you. Now, discontent to imitate, they’ve pushed their pop wave, running a cool, blue gauntlet of sounds with The Future is Medieval. The difference is immediately apparent on single “Little Shocks,” a dark little stroll, where lead Ricky Wilson incants, “I wish I could give you undivided attention every minute, every day but I can’t.”

The band originally released The Future is Medieval as “Create Your Album”: fans visiting the band’s website are presented with 20 songs and a clever apparatus to pick the ten they liked most, select some artwork and download the album. As if that wasn’t enough, anytime someone downloaded your signature mix of Chiefdom, you receive a pound. The innovative approach has seen a decent amount of success—it’s one weakness being fluidity—each listener can come away with a radically different experience of the album. And how many actually paid for all 20? For this reason and others the band released an “official tracklisting” of 10 songs on June 15th, a fairly safe compilation of the whole.

Kaiser Chiefs has always been a sound grounded in the late 1970s, now they’re taking a slightly different look at the era. Instead of their famous brand of Punkish New Wave, they’re tackling Bowie-esque sentiments (check the peculiar namesake and elastic synthesizer on “Man on Mars”) and what might even be a nod to Pink Floyd’s Echoes era.

The Future Is Medieval is rife with funk and head-bopping pop, which is nothing fans haven’t come to love them for, but rather than innovate from the fringe the Chiefs chose to do it from the core. With their relevance steadily waning from their debut in 2004, they don’t have much of a choice but to adapt.

They didn’t leave behind catchy choruses, just branched into a healthy diversity of styles, “Child of the Jago,” is a hard-swinging ballad, while “Things Change” packs off-kilter groove and smacks of LCD Soundsystem. Time will tell if a change in sounds will restore the Kaisers to the throne. It might be that the band is best understood live. The physical energy, charisma and onstage antics are more indicative of its power. Assuming their next few gigs showcase The Future Is Medieval with a bit of the old guns, this summer’s festival circuit for Kaiser Chiefs will be a frivolous one.

Kaiser Chiefs – The Future is Medieval Tracklist:

  1. “Little Shocks”
  2. “Things Change”
  3. “Long Way From Celebrating”
  4. “Starts With Nothing”
  5. “Out Of Focus”
  6. “Dead Or In Serious Trouble”
  7. “When All Is Quiet”
  8. “Kinda Girl You Are”
  9. “Man On Mars”
  10. “Child Of The Jago”
  11. “Heard It Break”
  12. “Coming Up For Air”
  13. “If You Will Have Me”