Refreshing surprises in Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Education & War’

In “Education, Education, Education & War,” the Kaiser Chiefs develop a  more professional and mature sound.  (Photo provided by rollingstone.com)
In “Education, Education, Education & War,” the Kaiser Chiefs develop a more professional and mature sound. (Photo provided by rollingstone.com)

If you’ve been following The Kaiser Chiefs since their first album, 2004’s “Employment,” then you’ve come to expect a sharp, poppy formula from the group. They have remained one of my favorite bands for their consistency. However, after four albums, the element of surprise has worn thin. I didn’t expect the group to genuinely surprise listeners ten years into their career with their newest release.

Contrary to expectations, the group released a thrilling fifth album. In the past three years, The Kaiser Chiefs have undergone major changes. They lost a lead songwriter, replaced their drummer and have become public figures on British television. These are all factors that could easily tear a band apart. This, however, has not been the case with The Kaiser Chiefs. It has led to a re-birth for the group. These obstacles have encouraged them push harder. On “Education, Education, Education & War,” they have traded in their jeans and T-shirts for suits and ties. Though in the past their songs were breezy radio-ready hits with snarky surface level messages, their newest outing sees them replacing that with new wit and charm.

Upon hearing the title of the album, you could assume that the band equates growing up with tackling politics. Much to my surprise, the war allegories on the album are subtle and effective without coming off as preachy. The album starts off with “The Factory Gates,” which has the group return with the energy they left off with, but also with an infusion of smart social commentary.

For the first time, the group manages to write touching material that isn’t forced into a party album. “Coming Home” is the most gorgeous song that the group has offered. “Roses” closes the album on a positive note, pulling it all together. It is the most naturally structured and complete offering from the group. The battle of going through hell and back is one that we can all relate to. The Kaiser Chiefs have nailed the ups and downs of the human condition.

Though in the past, their songs were breezy radio-ready hits with snarky surface level messages, their newest outing sees them replacing that with new wit and charm.

“Education,” has some of the band’s best hooks and surprises. “One More Last Song” and “My Life” offer surprisingly charming and clever messages with solid hooks to back them up. Having lengthier songs finally gives the band breathing room to explore and craft pleasant melodies, where normally they would be cut short.

If you have come to expect a certain flavor of The Kaiser Chiefs, “Education, Education, Education & War” will certainly be a struggle upon the first listen. However, if you let it sink in with repeated listening, you will appreciate how it’s much more than what you have to come to expect from this band. “Education,” is a welcome transition record of experimentation with positive results.

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