Album review submitted by Philip Lickley.
Kaiser Chiefs – Souvenir: The Singles Collection 2004 – 2012
I honestly cannot believe it is eight years since I bought a copy of Employment by Leeds band the Kaiser Chiefs, after falling in love with songs ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ and I Predict A Riot. Now, almost a decade and four main albums later, they have released a sixteen-track, hour-long retrospective look at their singles discography.
Packaged in a traditional CD case with a photo of a specially created stick-of-rock on the front and a retro art style dating back to their first album (including a beautiful magic-lantern style CD complete with silver embossed CD covers even if it does have a mis-numbered track ten), it is a well presented release for fans and new-comers alike.
The album, happily, is not listed chronologically but in a specially selected order which allows the tracks to flow nicely into each other, though it is to some extent front-loaded with the big hits making the first half of the album the stronger of the two.
Being weighted towards the first two albums, with nine of the sixteen choices coming from them, it’s a bit disappointing for those, like me, who enjoy the third and fourth albums as much as the first two, but it does accurately reflect the singles released with everything included on it, matching up with the lack of actual cuts from the more recent albums released onto the singles market, which always seemed a shame to me. So, though album tracks like ‘Half The Truth’, ‘You Want History’ and ‘Problem Solved’ would be a welcome addition, it is a correct catalogue of their actual singles.
What Souvenir does do is successfully document what a good band the Kaiser Chiefs are. Though they may be looked down on by some as being shamelessly poppy in their early days and not as commercially successful recently, there are very few bands from the noughties and the last few years with such a back catalogue of catchy, hook-filled pop-rock singles that sound as good on your home system as they do sung out at stadiums.
The album opens with some of their big hitters. Early single ‘Oh My God’ kicks off the collection with one of their familiar, commercial pop choruses before continuing the pace and memories with ‘Ruby’, ‘I Predict A Riot’ and the more recent ‘Never Miss A Beat’, the three “lead singles” of their respective albums, all classic examples of their sing-a-long style. ‘Everything Is Average Nowadays’ dips off to a less familiar release before we get ‘The Angry Mob’ in its two-section rowdy anthem glory.
We then get ‘Listen To Your Head’, the only truly new release on the album. A slower synth-based track with a memorable ‘a million ways’ line-repetition and digitally altered vocals, it boasts a great keyboard and guitar riff, picking up the style from The Future Is Medieval album. The bridge perhaps builds up to a better chorus than is actually delivered, but it’s a Gary Numan-esque synth hit and well worth an inclusion on the album, showcasing a much more mature and complex production feel than their earlier material which, though by no means a bad thing, relied more on vocal hooks and the noise of ‘na na na’.
The song that first brought them into my consciousness – ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ brings the first half to a riotous close, before we enter the weaker, but by no means weak, second half, starting with fourth album lead single ‘Little Shocks’, an under-rated hit that, though darker than their classic songs, builds up to become a clear anthem, and it’s followed by the first of two true ballads on the record ‘Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)’, a rather touching song.
‘Good Days Bad Days’ comes in at track eleven and though not one of their strongest singles, its poppy presence is welcome on the album.
After comes ‘On The Run’, taken from the American version of fourth album The Future Is Medieval, re-dubbed Start The Revolution Without Me, featuring a tweaked track-listing taken from their plentiful pool of songs released online during the time, where you could create your own twelve-track album. ‘On The Run’ is a bassy-synth led hit that, like ‘Listen To Your Head’, grabs its hook from verses starting with the same key word and a strong bridge, again one that over-shadows the actual chorus. It ends well with a cacophony of instrumental lines and vocals – so well this should have been the song that ended the compilation, but it leads well into ‘You Can Have It All’ from the first album, available here as the ‘Light Instrumental’ remix released as part of their limited edition signed 2000-run 7’’ vinyl from many years ago (one which I was lucky enough to get back then and featured the inspired blank reverse side entitled ‘I Predict Some Quiet’!), a refreshing version of the song with far more layers than the original album release, creating a much fuller sound.
Entering the final free tracks, we get ‘Modern Way’ with its wood-block led opening that leads to a strong ballad and second The Future Is Medieval single ‘Man On Mars’, presented here in the slightly shorter radio edit version, where Ricky takes a back seat on vocals, which is a pleasant enough track but I still feel not the strongest follow-up single that the band could have released.
The album ends on a positive, though, with ‘Kinda Girl You Are’ from the physical release of The Future Is Medieval, a classic Kaiser Chiefs uptempo song with a powerful chorus.
Souvenir might just be the album to sway any nay-sayers of the Kaiser Chiefs. Showcasing all their singles in one package shows both how their early material is some of the catchiest, uptempo, sing-a-long pop ever made and how their sound has changed over the years to bring us something even more interesting from a production point of view. A band that brought us tracks such as ‘Na Na Na Na Na’ and litter their songs with shameless non-sensical but singable sections can never be classed as high art in the music world, but they deserve a place in the history books as some of the finest crafters of UK pop in recent times.
If anyone can say they don’t want to sing along to 80% of the songs on this album they are, frankly, kidding themselves and I can’t think of any other hits compilation released this year so far that begs to be played out loud of a sunny day.
If you’ve been following the Kaisers since Employment then this is a well-ordered tribute to the band with all their singles and, though a few album cuts should have been slotted in to it, it’s hard to find fault with what is here. And for those of you who thought their last single was ‘Never Miss A Beat’, there are several more recent songs to enjoy on here and discover what you’ve been missing off their most recent releases.