ARTS

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March 30, 2007

Shortcuts—The Kaiser Chiefs' Yours Truly Angry Mob

I’ll admit it. I enjoyed Leeds quintet Kaiser Chiefs’s buoyant debut album, Employment. It was catchy, it was British, it was good to sing along to, and that’s all I really wanted. Listening to their second album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, I expected more of the same.

Yours Truly, however, is the Chiefs’s “serious sophomore” album, which means the “Whoos” and ’70s pop keyboards I associate with the band have been toned down in favor of a more solemn sound. While it’s admirable that the group wants to become more than “that goofy British band with the song about riots” while still making people dance, they don’t completely hit the mark. There’s an overly stolid undercurrent in this album that was almost never apparent in Employment. Yours Truly may be an album that requires multiple listens to really appreciate, as few real hooks are immediately apparent.

One of their more interesting songs that might be skipped in search of a faster number is “Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning),” a slice of melancholia in which lead singer Ricky Wilson offers an uncharacteristically jaded take on relationships—for him, anyway. The Chiefs still possess a clever turn of phrase, but are occasionally too serious; reflections on overeager fans in “Thank You Very Much,” for instance, just come off as self-important.

Two songs manage to capture their energy and channel it into something more sophisticated: “High Royds,” with its grungy guitars and wailing vocals, and the stomping refrain of “The Angry Mob.” In the latter, Wilson and the band all sing, “We are the angry mob, we read the papers every day/ we like what we like, we hate what we hate/ but we’re also easily swayed,” echoing the wry reflections on modern life first made in “I Predict a Riot” and “Born to Be a Dancer.”

The best track is, hands-down, “Boxing Champ,” in which drummer Nick Hodgson sings brightly of getting beaten up at his local teen center. While Hodgson’s voice isn’t particularly amazing, his unassuming style fits well with the bouncy piano line, and the song works beautifully—it’s a shame it only lasts a minute. “Try Your Best,” on the other hand, is about three times as long and meanders aimlessly; I’ve listened to it seven times, and I still can’t remember how it goes.

Yours Truly will probably satisfy die-hard fans of the Chiefs, but casual listeners may feel somewhat underwhelmed due to its pace. The sing-along choruses and quirky lyrics displayed on Employment are still present—they’re just slower and more scattered.